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Grand jury indicts man for 71lbs of coke

A Canadian man arrested with 71 pounds of cocaine near the U.S. border last month faces at least 10 years in prison under a grand jury indictment filed Tuesday.

Jonathan Darren Smith, 39, has been in custody without bail at the Spokane County Jail since Feb. 16, when a border patrol agent spotted him on the east side of Highway 395 "frantically trying to climb the snowy berm at the edge of the roadway," near the Laurier border crossing, according to federal court documents.

Investigators found 30 individually wrapped, sealed packages of cocaine in two backpacks.

Smith declined to talk to investigators. His trial on one count of possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine is scheduled to begin May 10.

The charge carries 10 years to life in prison.

According to Canadian news reports, Smith was arrested with $165,000 in undeclared U.S. currency when he tried to enter B.C. in 2007. He was convicted in 2009.

He has not yet had a bail hearing in this case. He's represented by Jeffrey Niesen.

Pa. man arrested at ‘going away’ party

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man who threw himself a going away party before his sentencing on drug charges was picked up on an outstanding warrant after police saw information about the party posted on flyers and his Facebook page.

Scranton Police Chief Dan Duffy says 28-year-old Keith Cardone was arrested early Wednesday during the party he threw for himself at a Scranton bar.

The Times-Tribune of Scranton reports Cardone is awaiting sentencing for his role in a drug ring that distributed $2.7 million in marijuana and cocaine in the area.

Duffy says two officers spotted ads for Cardone's "Going Away Ba$h" then picked him up on a warrant stemming from another drug charge.

Cardone is being held on $5,000 bail. It was not clear if he had an attorney.

Canadian arrested with 71 lbs of cocaine

U.S. border patrol agents seized 71 pounds of cocaine near the Canadian border in Eastern Washington this week.

Jonathan Darren Smith, 39, is being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail after agents near the Laurier border crossing spotted him on the east side of Highway 395 "frantically trying to climb the snowy berm at the edge of the roadway," about 9:05 p.m. on Wednesday, according to federal court documents.

Smith,dressed in black with a backpack strapped to his chest and one strapped to his back, as ordered to the ground at gunpoint.

He told U.S. Border Patrol Agent Eric Forthun that he was returning to Canada after crossing into the United States by foot two days earlier. But Forthun recalled agents discovering snowy footprints near the border a day earlier and suspected Smith was a drug smuggler, documents say.

Investigators found 30 individually wrapped, sealed packages of cocaine in the backpacks. Smith also had $13 in U.S. currency and $175 in Canadian currency.

The suspect declined to talk to investigators. He appeared in U.S. District Court on Thursday and is represented by the federal public defender's office.

According to this article, Smith was caught with $165,000 in undeclared U.S. currency when he tried to enter B.C. in 2007.

Driver gets 33 mos. for crash w/ police

A Spokane woman who ran a red light and crashed into three police detectives last summer was sentenced to nearly three years in prison.

Tonia S. Vansant, 38, is to spend 33 months behind bars for the July 16 crash that seriously injured Spokane police Detectives Mark Burbridge, Jan Pogachar and Douglas Orr, Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque ruled Wednesday.

Burbridge was driving an unmarked patrol car when Vansant ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue and t-boned the car.

Vansant had traces of cocaine in her blood system.

A jury convicted her in December.

Crack cocaine suspect arrested w/ $15k

A suspected crack cocaine dealer was arrested with $15,000 at his East Central Spokane apartment this week.

Joseph K. "J" Davis, 32, was arrested on Wednesday after selling crack on four occasions in an undercover police sting, according to a search warrant prepared by the Spokane Police Department.

Police believe Davis imports cocaine to Spokane from California, where he is wanted on an extraditable drug warrant in Redding.

An undercover detective used a "cooperative individual" to buy crack from Davis on Dec. 2, Jan. 11, Jan. 14 and on Monday, according to the search warrant. Police also attached a GPS tracker to Davis' 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

They searched his apartment at 1019 N. Crestline St. on Wednesday and recovered $15,895, a cell phone, drug scale and suspected crack cocaine.

Davis appeared in Superior Court on Thursday via video feed from the jail with his lawyer, Chris Phelps. He was given $1,000 bond for the drug charge but remains in jail on the California warrant.

Mom, son, grandma face crack charges

The daughter of a Spokane woman accused of helping her 14-year-old grandson sell crack cocaine is facing a lengthy federal prison sentence for the same drug.

Nicole D. Hilliard is "doing well" in treatment for drug treatment and is expected to participate until the middle of February, according to court documents prepared by her lawyer.

Hilliard's son and mother, Tyna A. Hilliard, were arrested last week after a confidential informant bought crack cocaine from the boy, who police say was driven to the scene by Tyna Hilliard.

"Tyna advised that she had complete knowledge of (the boy) selling the crack cocaine," according to a probable cause affidavit prepared by Spokane police. The informant said the boy had said "that he pays his grandmother to drive him around since he was only 14 and did not have a license."

Tyna Hilliard, 53, was released from jail on her own recognizance last week and is to be arraigned Jan. 3.

Her daughter pleaded guilty to a federal charge of possession with intent to deliver 50 grams or more of cocaine in October after being indicted last summer.  She's to be sentenced early next year in U.S. District Court in Spokane. The charge carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a four years probation, or at least 20 years in prison if she has a previous felony drug conviction, which she does not appear to have in Spokane County.

Nicole Hilliard does have previous felony convictions locally for first-degree robbery and attempted first-degree robbery in connection with the shooting death of a man during a dice game in 2002.

Jury convicts woman in cop-car crash

A jury today convicted a Spokane woman of three counts of vehicular assault for a crash that injured three police detectives last summer.

Tonia S. Vansant, 38, faces 33 to 43 months in prison when she’s sentenced Jan. 6, said Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady.

Vansant has been in jail since July 16, when she ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue at nearly 40 mph and t-boned an unmarked patrol car driven by Detective Mark Burbridge of the Spokane Police Department’s major crimes unit. 

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 9: Trial begins in crash that hurt detectives

July 17: Spokane police detectives injured in crash

Traffic stops yields cocaine, Ecstasy

Two men arrested on assault charges last summer were arrested again early today after a traffic stop for vehicle equipment violations led to the discovery of cocaine, Ecstasy, marijuana and misdemeanor warrants.

John Paul Ledoux, 21, and Cousteau C. Wright, 22, were arrested after Spokane Valley police Officer Justin Elliot stopped a Chevrolet Malibu in which they were passengers about 1:30 a.m. on East Sprague Avenue.

The Malibu was missing its rear bumper and had an inoperative license plate light, police said. The driver and two other passengers weren’t arrested, but Ledoux was taken into custody on a warrant for malicious mischief. Police found two small baggies of cocaine in his pockets, according to a news release.

Wright was arrested on a warrant for driving while license suspended. Police found a zippered pouch with a glass marijuana pipe, cocaine, and five Ecstasy tablets that the other occupants said belonged to Wight.

Both Ledoux and Wright were booked into jail on new drug charges.

Both men are scheduled for trial next month on first-degree assault charges for a June 21 incident in which a man was stabbed in the shoulder and a teen girl was hit in the neck with the handle of a hammer.

Trial starts in crash that hurt detectives

Trial begins today for a Spokane woman charged with three counts of vehicular assault for a crash with a police car last summer. 

Prosecutors say Tonia S. Vansant, 37, ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue on July 16 and t-boned an unmarked patrol car driven by Detective Mark Burbridge of the Spokane Police Department’s major crimes unit.  

Burbridge strained his back, sexual assault Detective Jan Pogachar (left) broke her pelvis and Douglas Orr, (bottom right) a computer forensics specialist for the sexual assault unit, perforated a lung and fractured his ribs, collar bone and sternum.

Court documents say Vansant’s blood test showed traces of cocaine as well as benzoylecgonine, the major metabolite of cocaine; and topiramate, which is used to treat seizures but can be used to treat cocaine addiction.

Investigators recently field a new search warrant for 1994 Isuzu Trooper after Vansant’s public defender suggested her brakes failed.

Police said that was the first they’d heard about possible brake problems in Vansant’s car.

A jury was seated on Monday. Opening statements are scheduled for this morning before Judge Jerome Leveque.

Shot pregnant woman faces charges

A Spokane woman who was nine months pregnant and unarmed when she was shot by a Washington State Patrol sergeant during a drug raid has been charged with drug trafficking.

Keamia D. Powell, 24, was allowed to leave jail on her own recognizance Wednesday under the condition that she report directly to a west Spokane drug rehabilitation center.

Powell has been living at the center since she was released from the hospital after being shot in the shoulder in what Sgt. Lee Slemp, a 25-year veteran, has told investigators was an accidental shooting.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 6: Police want drug charges filed against pregnant woman

Oct. 1: WSP sergeant says shooting was accidental

Oct. 1 Sergeant who shot pregnant woman is 25-year veteran

Sept. 24: State patrol officer shoots unarmed pregnant woman

Raspberry theft leads to fugitive’s arrest

A second suspect in a burglary and stabbing late last month was arrested Friday after police said he tried to steal raspberry extract from a Spokane grocery store.

Tony N. Hairston, 42, (right) was wanted on burglary, assault and attempted robbery charges when security at Safeway, 1616 Northwest Boulevard, wrestled him to the ground and detained him on theft charges Friday about 10:50 p.m. Police say he had cocaine in his pocket.

Hairston is accused of stabbing Kenneth B. Barton in the head at 2821 N. Cincinnati Ave. Oct. 27, where police say he and Jarreau S. “Sweaty” Squetimkin, 26, fought with Barton and Audrey O’Grady while demanding money. 

Squetimkin, who knew Barton from prison, was arrested the night of the incident and remains in jail. (A police report from Squetimkin’s arrest incorrectly stated he was walking with victim Audrey O’Grady at the time of his arrest. In fact, O’Grady was with police in a squad car when they spotted Squetimkin.)

Witnesses told police that Hairston pinned Barton to a chair and punched him about 20 times while holding the knife, according to court documents. Barton was treated and released from a hospital. 

Hairston and Squetimkin (left) are charged with first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, attempted first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. Both are in jail on $100,000 bail. Hairston was given an additional $25,000 bond today for drug, theft and resisting arrest charges for Friday’s incident.

According to Crime Stoppers, Hairston has a nine-year local criminal history with convictions for city theft, drug possession, riot, second-degree possession of stolen property, driving on a suspended license, domestic violence assault, refusal to cooperate and probation violation.

Police divvy drugs to catch dealers

Two men looking for drugs found help quickly on East Sprague Avenue in Spokane last April. A drug user eager for his next high took them to a west Spokane parking lot, where he handed them a rock of crack cocaine he’d bought from a dealer in a nearby car.

The men gave their assistant a small portion of the drug and drove back to Sprague, but they didn’t join him in getting high. Instead, the remaining crack cocaine was secured at the Spokane police evidence room and the man suspected of selling it was charged with a felony.

The investigation was detailed in a court hearing Thursday that provided a rare look at the Spokane Police Department’s undercover drug unit, where confidential informants are used daily and some drug users have no idea they’re actually helping police.

Read my full story here.

Suspect in cop-car crash was on cocaine

A woman accused of crashing into an unmarked police car in July, seriously injuring three detectives, tested positive for cocaine, new court documents show. 

Tonia S. Vansant, 37, is scheduled to go to trial next month for three counts of vehicular assault. Police say she ran a red light at Division Street and Sharp Avenue on July 16 and t-boned an unmarked patrol car driven by Detective Mark Burbridge (right) of the Spokane Police Department’s major crimes unit.

Also injured were sexual assault Detective Jan Pogachar (left) and Douglas Orr, (bottom right) a computer forensics specialist for the sexual assault unit.

 Police thought Vansant might be drunk. A search warrant filed recently says Vansant’s blood test showed traces of cocaine as well as benzoylecgonine, the major metabolite of cocaine; and topiramate, which is used to treat seizures but can be used to treat cocaine addiction.

The warrant was used to search Vansant’s 1994 Isuzu Trooper for evidence of drug use and to take photographs and measurements of the SVU “for collision reconstruction purposes,” police wrote. 

Though the detectives’ injuries were not considered life threatening, all three missed work and are undergoing physical therapy for extensive injuries.

Burbridge strained his back; Pogacher broke her pelvis and returned to work on light-duty status only. 

Orr perforated a lung and fractured his ribs, collar bone and sternum. He underwent surgery to place pins and plates in his body and has not yet returned to work, according to the search warrant, which was signed Oct. 13 by Cpl. Dave Adams. Vansant remains in jail. Last month, Judge Ellen Kalama Clark rejected Vansant’s request for a two-day furlough to move her possessions into storage because of an eviction. Clark cited Vansant’s previous conviction for bail jumping and her history of skipping court.

Past coverage:

July 19: Brother of cop-crash driver in prison for porn

Feds: U.S. judge used cocaine w/ stripper

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA (AP) - A veteran federal judge faces drug and firearms charges after an exotic dancer at an Atlanta strip club told authorities he used cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs with her. 

Senior U.S. District Judge Jack T. Camp was arrested Friday minutes after he handed an undercover law enforcement agent $160 for cocaine and Roxycodone, a narcotic pain medication, that he intended to use with the exotic dancer, authorities said in a court document released Monday. They said they also found two firearms in the front seat of his vehicle.

Camp, 67, (pictured) who has presided over some high-profile cases, was released Monday on a $50,000 bond. His attorney, William Morrison, said after a brief hearing that the judge intends to plead not guilty. Morrison said Camp would probably take a leave of absence and would not preside over any more cases until the charges are resolved.

“This is really a case between Judge Camp and his wife,” said Morrison. “It’s not about Judge Camp being a judge. It’s about him being a husband.”

Camp’s arrest set up an unusual domino effect in the federal courthouse. The district’s federal judges all recused themselves, so Magistrate Judge Charles S. Coody of Alabama was brought in to hear the case. Federal prosecutors from Washington also flew in to handle the government’s arguments.

The charges against Camp were laid out in a shocking eight-page affidavit released after the emergency hearing was finished.

Camp met the confidential informant, who recently began cooperating with the FBI, at the Goldrush Showbar in Atlanta in early 2010 and he soon began paying her for sex and buying cocaine from her at $40 to $50 a pop, according to the records.

In June 2010, Camp followed the informant to a drug dealer in Marietta to buy Roxycodone. He was also recorded in a wiretapped telephone call on Sept. 28 talking with her about getting together over the weekend to split more pills and cocaine with her, according to the charges.

He showed up at a Publix parking lot in northeast Atlanta around 7:15 p.m. Friday to meet with the an undercover agent posing as the dealer. When the informant told her she was worried about his safety, the judge told her, “I not only have my little pistol, I’ve got my big pistol so, uh, we’ll take care of any problems that come up,” according to the affidavit.

He handed over $160 in cash to pay for the drugs around 7:35 p.m. Ten minutes later, authorities arrested the judge and seized the two guns from the front seat of his vehicle.

The judge faces four drug-related charges and one count of possessing firearms while illegally using drugs.

It’s a stunning turn for Camp, a Vietnam War veteran who was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan in 1987. He is a former chief judge for the Northern District of Georgia.

Known for wearing suspenders around the courtroom, he handled hundreds of cases before taking senior status — and a lesser caseload — in 2008.

In 2004, he sentenced two men accused of killing DeKalb County Sheriff Derwin Brown to life in prison without parole. He also handled litigation from voting rights groups who sought to block Georgia from asking new voters to prove their identities and citizenship before casting their ballots.

The judge also handled several high-profile drug cases, including the May 2009 sentencing on prescription-related charges of the personal doctor to a professional wrestler who killed himself, his wife and their 7-year-old son.

Camp, wearing a pinstripe suit, said little during the brief hearing Monday but turned to flash a smile at his family after he walked in. He hired four defense attorneys over the weekend to represent him, and Morrison said his client was in “good spirits.”

“Judge Camp’s wife is an extraordinarily strong woman and she’s going to stand by her husband,” said Morrison. “And this is a very strong man. He’s going to overcome these circumstances.”

Cocaine, guns, $10,000 seized in Grant Co.

More than a 1 1/2 pounds of cocaine was seized last week in Grant County.

Investigators found the drugs, along with three guns, on Sept. 6 while searching two homes - one in Quincy and one in Moses Lake - and arresting four people, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday.

The first search in the 300 block of E Street NE in Quincy recovered about 18 ounces of cocaine. Investigators also seized a late-model BMW convertible and a 2002 Toyota Camry.

Arrested on charges of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver were Felix Torres Maciel, 34, of Moses Lake, and Cesar Alejandro Ayala, 36, of Quincy.

Another search in the 9000 block of Road H. 6 in Moses Lake seized more than eight ounces of cocaine, two semi-automatic handguns, a .22 caliber rifle and more than $10,000.

Suspected illegal immigrants Ricardo Pimentel Maciel, 60, and Estella Torres Maciel, 58, were arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance and alien in possession of a firearm.

Suspects in gang murder headed to prison

Two cousins charged in a gang-related mucrder are headed to prison on unrelated convictions.

Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton, 23, was sentenced to 63 months in prison on Friday for second-degree assault.

Eric “Smalls” Burton, Jr., 25, also was sentenced recently to 20 months in prison for possession of cocaine with intent to deliver.

Cedric Burton had been charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for trying to run over two men in a downtown Spokane parking lot in November, but a jury convicted him of only assault, which is his second strike. A co-defendant, Charles Willy Jackson, is charged with second-degree assault, third-degree malicious mischief and possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) after police say he shot out the back window of the men’s Hummer. His trial is set for September.

Eric Burton received the low-end of the standard sentence for his crack cocaine conviction, which stemmed from him having 26 baggies of the drug when Spokane police stopped him last summer.

Authorities have said he may face federal charges for allegedly possessing the gun used to kill John S. Williams on Jan. 17.

Both cousins have convictions related a 2005 gang murder, and both still are charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance in connection with Williams’ murder in January.

The accused triggerman, Edward “TD” Thomas, still is at large.

Past coverage:

June 3: Seven charged in January gang murder

May 21: Lawyer: Fugitive was in Cali for cousin’s funeral

May 3: Warrant issued for accused would-be killer

U.S. judge to Jerry Carlson: Pay attention

The 30-year veteran federal judge made it clear at the beginning of what turned out to be a 2 1/2 hour hearing: Jerry Carlson, school booster and Coeur d'Alene insurance giant, was going to prison. 

“Probation is not an appropriate sentence,” U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush (left) said Monday. “What message would such a sentence send to the people of this community both young and old who have been misled by Mr. Carlson?”

Carlson appeared frustrated throughout the hearing, folding his arms over his chest and looking away. 

At one point, Quackenbush scolded him.

"Might I suggest, Mr. Carlson, what the court has to say may be of some interest to you?" Quackenbush asked.

"Yeah," Carlson replied, looking up. 

Quackenbush sentenced Carlson to 27 months in federal prison for his role in an undercover cocaine sting that exposed his addiction to the community in February 2009. He could be released after about 13 months.

Quackenbush also ordered Carlson to serve four years on probation but declined to impose further forfeitures, besides $20,000 Carlson's already paid. The judge said further forfeiture would unfairly burden Carlson's family.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Cook said Carlson still has not accepted full responsibility for his role in the case, which she said began in late January or early February 2008 when Carlson bought a kilo of cocaine from Theodore Bruck, a former Bayview, Idaho, contractor now in federal prison for marijuana distribution.

Carlson admitted Monday that he split that kilo with a known dealer, someone Cook said had a large impact on the community. Carlson says Bruck set him up to buy the next kilo, which led to his arrest, by offering it to him for the exceptionally low price of $2,000.

Cook says he'd already given Bruck $19,000; Carlson says that cash was a loan for Bruck's construction business. When Carlson stopped lending Bruck money, Bruck found another way to Carlson’s wallet - his addiction or his "Achilles tendon."

Carlson went to rehab for alcohol addiction several years ago but soon relapsed and was using cocaine occasionally. After he began dealing with Bruck, Carlson said he consumed more than two pounds of cocaine in two to three months.

“He was using as much as he could get his hands on,” said his lawyer, James Siebe. “Neither his family nor his clients knew he was back into the problem.”

Read much more from the sentencing in my full story: School booster in cocaine sting gets 27 months

Past coverage:

May 26: DEA shuts down alleged CdA cocaine ring

Jan. 29: Ex-Bayview contractor helped bust Carlson

Sept. 21, 2009: Feds wants Carlson's car, cash

Feb 23, 2009: CdA businessman faces federal cocaine charges

Jerry Carlson sentenced to 27 months

A former Coeur d’Alene High School booster of the year and prominent insurance agent was sentenced today to 27 months in federal prison in an undercover cocaine sting. Jerry S. Carlson, cried as he addressed U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush this morning in Coeur d’Alene as about 70 supporters packed the courtroom, including Lola Hagadone. Carlson pleaded guilty in January to attempting to possess 500 or more grams of cocaine with intent to deliver. Federal sentencing guidelines called for him to serve 37 months to 46 months behind bars, but Quackenbush ruled Carlson was not a distributor and shortened his sentence by 10 months. He also ordered Carlson to partake in a prison drug program, not as a patient but as a counselor or adviser to incoming addicts. That program, coupled with expected credit for good time, could reduce Carlson’s sentence to just over a year behind bars, said his lawyer, Jim Siebe. Siebe had asked for probation, but Quackenbush made it clear at the beginning of the hearing that Carlson was prison bound. More here.


19 arrested in gangs, drugs, guns sweep

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One man was targeted by gunfire twice in 5 weeks. Another already faces an attempted murder charge for a June shooting. And several others are alleged to have sold large quantities of crack cocaine and methamphetamine throughout Spokane.

Those men were among 19 suspects arrested today as part of an 18-month drug and firearms investigation targeting Spokane-area gangs.

The arrests are not connected to Tuesday’s homicide in the West Central neighborhood, nor to a gang shooting last month at Hoopfest.

“That’s an indication of the pervasiveness of the gang problem,” said Frank Harrill, agent in charge at the Spokane office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Read the rest of my story here.

Above is video of the raids shot from a sheriff’s helicopter.

B.C. man w/ 80 lbs of coke gets 5 years

A Canadian man who smuggled cocaine into Eastern Washington will spend nearly five years in federal prison, a judge ruled today.

Michael B. Yuill, 37, received about three years less than federal prosecutor’s requested and two years more than his defense lawyer requested.

Yuill, of Salmon Arm, B.C., was arrested on Oct. 2 on the Colville Indian Reservation with 80 pounds of cocaine after Spokane International Airport police told federal agents that he’d rented several SUVs in the last four months and returned them with unusually high mileage.

Yuill said he was to trade the cocaine for marijuana in Omak, according to court documents. Prosecutors alleged he was actually responsible for distributing 10 times the amount of cocaine he had when arrested, which would have made him eligible for a sentence of 84 to 105 months. Yuill’s public defender, Kim Deater, called the claim “ridiculous” in court documents and asked for a 36-month sentence.

After about two hours of testimony this afternoon, Judge Wm. Fremming Nielsen sentenced Yuill to 57 months in prison, followed by five years probation, for one count of possession of five kilograms or more of cocaine.

Yuill, a father of two, pleaded guilty in February and had no previous criminal record. Yuill was described by Deater in court documents as “unsophisticated” and “a low-level mule” whose “simple yet full” life imploded when his marriage fell apart in 2007.

Still, he is a non-violent man described by his ex-wife “as a truly gentle soul,” loving father and valued member of his community.”

Yuill’s supporters, including White Lake, B.C., Fire Chief Bryan J. Griffin, wrote letters commending his character.

Yuill was a longtime volunteer with the White Lake Fire Department who helped with community parties and loved dressing up as Shrek for Halloween, according to a sentencing memorandum.

He bought a satellite business in 2003, but his poor business skills led to financial problems , and he moved to Salmon Arm to be closer to his children when his business was foreclosed upon. He took a job at an RV company and at a saloon, but he struggled financially.

After his arrest last October, Yuill told investigators he’d met a man named “Fugly” in Salmon Arm who gave him a BlackBerry device to use in drug running, according to prosecutors.

Yuill became Zebra and began communicating with “Nighthawker;” according to court documents. Yuill “surmised it could be Fugly, but he did not know for sure.” He was to receive $5,000 for the October trip.

Yuill said he’d been in the country three previous times but only to check construction work and cell coverage and, on one occasion, pick up marijuana.

Prosecutors said in court documents that Yuill claimed to have served as a decoy for a larger shipment of up to 300 kilograms of cocaine, and that such a shipment successfully reached Canada about the time of Yuill’s arrest. Yuill later denied making that claim.

Suspect in murder admits to crack charge

A Spokane man accused of lying to police his knowledge of a fatal shooting in January faces at least 20 months in prison for a crack cocaine conviction when he’s sentenced later this summer.

Eric “Smalls” Burton, Jr., recently pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. He’s to be sentenced Aug. 9. 

Burton had 26 baggies of crack cocaine when Spokane police stopped him last August. The officers knew Burton had a Department of Corrections warrant for his arrest, said Burton’s lawyer, Chris Phelps.

Phelps said the arrest was “ripe for pretrial suppression” because of issues with the police search, but “we have voluntarily declined to pursue those.” Phelps said the case had been sent to federal prosecutors, but they declined to pursue it unless Burton didn’t plead guilty as charged.

Burton’s standard sentencing range calls for 20 to 60 months; Deputy Prosecutor Eugene Cruz said last week he’ll recommending the low end.

Burton also is charged with first-degree rendering criminal assistance for allegedly lying to police about what he knew about the murder of John S. Williams on Jan. 17.

Burton was arrested the day of the murder after police found the Ruger mini-rifle used to kill Williams in a rental car Burton drove to the scene, but the first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm charge was dismissed in April because Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla said “there is insufficient evidence to proceed with the prosecution of this case until further investigation,” according to court documents.

The new rendering criminal assistance charge was filed against Burton early this month. He was arrested June 2 and posted $50,000 bail the next day.

His cousins, Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton and James C. Henderson, remain in jail on charges connected to the murder.

The accused triggerman, Edward “TD” Thomas, remains a fugitive, as do Marc A. “Bookie” Carter, John E. Burton, 27, and Christopher J. Route, 23.

Past coverage: June 3: Seven charged in January gang murder

Shooting suspect part of crack investigation

Although a shooting in northeast Spokane on Thursday likely wasn’t gang-related, the Los Angeles man accused in the incident was arrested earlier this year in a crack cocaine investigation targeting several gangs.

Members of one of the gangs, the Atlantic Drive Compton Crips, were allegedly involved in a January fatal shooting – the only homicide in the city of Spokane so far this year.

Andrew T. Burns, 36, is in jail on an assault charge after witnesses told police he fired at least three shots at Kenneth R. Grooms, 40.

Read the rest of my story here.

DEA: Tri-Cities man supplied CdA cocaine

A Coeur d’Alene man accused of leading a cocaine distribution ring for at least 10 years is believed to have obtained the drugs from a Kennewick man.

New documents filed in U.S. District Court allege Manuel Rivera supplied James Roy “Slim” O’Neill (left) with cocaine that O’Neill then sold out of Coeur d’Alene.

Both men remain in federal custody - Rivera in Bonner County and O’Neill in Kootenai County - after their lawyers waived bail hearings on Monday.

A third suspect, Chillers bar owner Chris McFarland, was released on several conditions, including that he not work at Chillers. McFarland was convicted in 1994 of possessing several ounces of cocaine in Utah.

The new documents show a confidential informant arrested in connection with the case had a GPS unit on his car as early as November 2009. Investigators said the GPS device showed he traveled to Pasco to meet with Rivera shortly before he was stopped with nearly 70 grams of cocaine in Idaho. That informant told investigators Rivera was O’Neill’s cocaine supplier and had recently provided black tar heroin to O’Neill.

Investigators put a GPS tracker on O’Neill’s Ford scape and pulled his phone records. Idaho State Police detectives even sent O’Neill’s trash to a forensic lab for resting - traces of cocaine often was detected.

The informant bought cocaine from Rivera on several occasions, according to court documents. Meanwhile, detectives were watching O’Neill and McFarland and observing what they believed were drug deals at Chillers.

O’Neill was arrested May 25 with his wife, Lecia O’Neill, after a raid at their home at 2202 N. 9th. Also arrested were Rivera, McFarland, Gary Votava, Steve McCabe and Debra Margraff.

Three other Coeur d’Alene residents face state charges in connection with the case: James Lunceford, Kelli Lunceford and Michael G. Wachholz, 36.

Wachholz’s charge relates to cocaine found at his home during a search by probation officers in March, according to documents filed in Kootenai County District Court. The Luncefords were arrested May 25 after a search at their home at 2200 Monte Vista Drive. Investigators found less than a gram of cocaine. All three are out of jail on bond.

Past coverage:

May 26: DEA raid shuts down alleged CdA coke ring

DEA: Chillers bar tied to cocaine distribution

For 20 years, federal agents allege, a Coeur d’Alene cocaine dealer went undetected by law enforcement, thanks in part to a tight-knit group of traffickers that included his friends and family. 

But James Roy “Slim” O’Neill’s alleged criminal enterprise imploded Tuesday when he and six other suspects were arrested after a months-long drug investigation involving a Coeur d’Alene bar now targeted in a federal forfeiture. 

O’Neill and his wife, 44-year-old Lecia D. O’Neill, were arrested Tuesday, as were Christopher B. McFarland, 48; Stephen J. McCabe, 51; and Debra L. Margraff, 48, and Gary Votava, 51, all of Coeur d’Alene. All are pictured above, left to right and top to bottom.

Read the rest of the story here.


CdA bar raided, 6 arrested in cocaine bust

For 20 years, federal agents allege, a Coeur d’Alene cocaine dealer went undetected by law enforcement, thanks in part to a tight-knit group of traffickers that included his friends and family. 

But James Roy “Slim” O’Neill’s alleged criminal enterprise imploded Tuesday when he and six other suspects were arrested after a months-long drug investigation involving a Coeur d’Alene bar now targeted in a federal forfeiture. 

A federal complaint filed Friday says O’Neill used proceeds from drug sales to finance an expensive lifestyle, including cars, recreational vehicles and annual trips to the Daytona 500 race in Florida.

O’Neill and his wife, 44-year-old Lecia D. O’Neill, were arrested Tuesday, as were Gary A. Votava, 51; Christopher B. McFarland, 48; Stephen J. McCabe, 51; and Debra L. Margraff, 48, all of Coeur d’Alene. Arrested in Kennewick was Manuel Rivera, 34.

Read the rest of my story here.

Pictured above: Top row, left to right: James O’Neill, Lecia O’Neill and Christopher McFarland. Bottom row, left to right: Stephen McCabe, Debra McGraff and Gary Votava.

Coke smuggler in ‘copter bust gets 10 years

The last of two drug smugglers arrested in Utah with cocaine bound for a young helicopter pilot in the Colville National Forest has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. 

Ross N. Legge, 54, (right) pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine last week in U.S. District Court in Utah and was sentenced to 120 months in prison, followed by 60 months probation according to documents filed on Friday.

  Legge and Leonard J. Ferris were arrested Feb. 21, 2009, near Ogden, Utah, after state troopers found 83 kilograms of cocaine in their car. The bust was part of the ongoing Operation Blade Runner drug investigation. 

Ferris (left) was sentenced in December to six years in prison in a hearing that was closed to the public. 

The men had a storage unit in Spokane Valley where they kept an ATV, trailer, and other items used in drug trafficking. They were driving from Las Vegas to Eastern Washington to trade the cocaine to Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown when they were arrested.

Brown (bottom right) was arrested after federal agents infiltrated the operation following Legge and Ferris’ arrests and caught Brown landing a helicopter with 400 pounds of marijuana. He committed suicide in Spokane County Jail on Feb. 27, 2009.

Ferris pleaded guilty about two months after his arrest, but Legge fought the charge. His guilty plea came after a federal judge rejected a motion to suppress evidence obtained through the search of the truck. Legge was driving the truck but Ferris gave troopers permission to search it because it belonged to him.

Authorities have described Legge and Ferris’ stop as a routine traffic stop, but the motion shows the men were stopped by a state trooper who had already pulled over another vehicle for speeding.

The trooper said he stopped the black Ford F-150 truck Legge and Ferris were in because it didn’t move to the left lane when they passed the trooper, who was stopped alongside the highway’s right lane.

Legge said he lived in Spokane, and he and Ferris gave conflicting stories about why they had traveled to Las Vegas, according to court documents.

U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson rejected Legge’s motion to suppress on March 15.

Legge pleaded guilty and was sentenced on May 5.

Federal agents believe the drug ring was headed by four Canadian men, one of whom offered to cooperate if investigators let him continue his operation for a decade. Read more here.

Prison for coke-buying school booster?

Sentencing for a former Coeur d’Alene insurance agent who bought a kilo of cocaine in an undercover federal drug investigation has been postponed. 

Jerald S. “Jerry” Carlson originally was to be sentenced Thursday, but a judge approved lawyer James Siebe’s request to move the hearing to July.

Carlson pleaded guilty in January to a felony charge of attempting to possess cocaine with intent to deliver in a plea deal that dismissed two other felony cocaine charges.

Carlson, a once-prominent Coeur d’Alene High School booster, already paid $20,000 in forfeiture. Further punishment is still being discussed.

“Obviously under the guidelines he’s looking at hard prison,” Siebe said today.

But Siebe is arguing that Carlson’s case as extenuating circumstances that warrant a lighter sentence. He points to the price of the cocaine Carlson bought from a government informant - $2,000 for a kilo, “which they themselves claim was worth $20,000.”

“Obviously, anybody with a substance abuse problem is going to look at that and be tempted to do it,” Siebe said.

Siebe also points to Carlson’s lack of a criminal history and his record of community service.

Carlson was arrested in February 2009 after Theodore Bruck, a former Bayview contractor set to go to federal prison on a marijuana conviction sold him the cocaine.

Federal agents arrived at his insurance office in Hayden to find him trying to flush the drugs down the toilet.

Past coverage:

Ex-Bayview contractor helped bust Carlson

Feds wants Carlson’s car, cash

CdA businessman faces federal cocaine charges

‘Nicer’ home invasion robber gets 5+ years

A teenager will spend about five years in prison for a violent home invasion robbery last fall that targeted the mother of his alleged accomplice’s child.

Cocaine addiction drove Darius D. Toussiant, 18, to join a group of friends in a Nov. 16 attack that led to a SWAT team standoff at an apartment the next day, said his public defender, Kari Reardon.

Toussiant apologized for what he called “stupid mistakes” before being sentenced Tuesday to 66 months in prison.

“It’s painful to sentence someone your age to prison, but what you did was pretty bad, pretty horrifying,” said Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno. Moreno approved a plea deal hatched by Reardon and Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla that convicted Toussiant of first-degree burglary and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery and dismissed one count of first-degree robbery.

The sentence carries a three-year enhancement because a firearm was used. Moreno ordered Toussiant, a high school dropout, to earn his GED in prison and attend drug addiction counseling if available.

His father, Kent Toussiant, told Moreno he’ll be there to support the teen.

“I feel he is ready to rehabilitate and take a stronger path. It’s going to be up to him,” he said.

Toussiant and his accomplices burst into the East Mansfield Avenue apartment of Sara Mattingly in November looking for drugs that weren’t there, prosecutors said Tuesday.

They left with electronics after forcing Mattingly into a laundry closet at gunpoint as her young child slept, according to court documents. Detectives said Toussiant was “nicer” than his accomplices during the home invasion and urged them not to go into the child’s room, Reardon said.

Along with robbery and burglary charges, Jeremiah A. Smith, also known as Glen A. Akers, 20, also is accused of hitting Mattingly in the head with a handgun. He’s in jail awaiting trial.

Mattingly’s ex-boyfriend, 24-year-old Artez L. Woodard, whom she’d taken out a restraining order against a week earlier, also is in jail. A fourth suspect, 22-year-old Vatsana Moungkhoth, was sentenced to 22 months in prison Monday for conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. Police say she drove Toussiant and Akers to Mattingly’s apartment.

Past coverage:

Suspect had history with assault victim

Police searching South Hill for robbery suspects

Federal crack cocaine laws under fire

A woman spending 27 years in federal prison on a crack cocaine conviction is the first person to seek a pardon from President Obama.

Federal law punishes crack cocaine convictions much more severely than powder cocaine, and Obama has asked Congress to change that. The Sentencing Commission has recommended the current 100:1 sentencing ratio be replaced with a 20:1 ratio.

The law was instituted in 1986, “when authorities feared crack was becoming an epidemic, (but the arguments) were based on faulty assumptions – including that crack users were far more violent and dangerous to the community than powdered-cocaine users,” according to this Associated Press article from April.

The disparity between federal crack laws and federal powder cocaine laws can be seen in the case of Terrence A. “T-Baby” Kinard, the man who caused a stir last November when a U.S. magistrate judge gave him permission to leave jail for Thanksgiving dinner, under the condition his family pay for armed guards. (As you can read here, Kinard’s family rejected the offer.)

Kinard (right) was convicted of possessing 28 grams of crack cocaine after buying it from an undercover detective. Kinard maintains in court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane that he intended to buy powder cocaine, but police provided crack instead.

Police reports included in the federal court file show a confidential informant told police in summer 2008 that he could buy crack from Kinard. When the informant wasn’t able to do so, he told police he could sell powder cocaine to Kinard, and police had him arrange a sale for nine ounces of powder cocaine.

But Kinard never showed up for the buy, and when he called six weeks later, he ended up getting crack, not powder.

One report show the informant told police Kinard wanted “one ounce of cocaine.” In a different report, the detective says Kinard requested crack cocaine.

Had Kinard gotten powder, there would have been no mandatory minimum prison sentence.

“As stated above, from the detective’s own words it appears that he unilaterally made the decision to switch the controlled substance from powder to crack cocaine prior to the controlled buy. This not only served to increase Mr. Kinard’s sentence; it invoked a mandatory minimum,” according to the sentencing memorandum prepared by defense lawyer Kim Deater. “Mr. Kinard again reiterates that he is not innocent and he has pleaded guilty to the charge, however, the detective’s actions evidence reason for concern.”

Kinard is serving 80 months in federal prison. “He is motivated to live a clean and sober life because his addiction has been the root cause of his separation from his family,” according to the memo.

His sentence is barely anything compared to a sentence imposed on Hamedah Hasan, formerly known as Stephanie Lomax, the woman seeking a presidential pardon.

Read the Associated Press story by clicking the link below.

Canadian coke smuggler: I’m guilty

A Canadian man arrested with 38 kilos of cocaine last fall recently pleaded guilty to a federal cocaine charge.

Michael B. Yuill, 36, (left, dressed as Shrek for Halloween 2005 in a picture from his hometown paper, the Observer), pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.

The charges carries a prison sentence of 10 years to life. No plea deal was accepted when Yuill pleaded guilty Feb. 2.

He’ll be sentenced May 3. Yuill, a father of two with no previous criminal record, was arrested Oct. 7 after employees at a Spokane International Airport rental agency told investigators he’d rented several SUVs and returned them after racking up unusually high mileage – some 3,000 miles apiece.

Yuill, a resident of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, a small community about 300 miles north of Spokane, was arrested after U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents spent two days tailing him throughout Eastern Washington.

Previous coverage:

B.C man in coke bust to stay in jail

38 kilos of cocaine seized in Eastern Washington