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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

CdA coke kingpin sentenced to 15 years

A longtime Coeur d'Alene cocaine dealer who laundered money through a bar and restaurant has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

James Roy "Slim" O'Neill, 49, was the kingpin of a cocaine distribution ring that supplied the drug in North Idaho for at least a decade and operated partly out of Chiller's bar on Sherman Avenue.

According to court documents, O'Neill also grew marijuana near Mineral Ridge, a popular hiking area that gives a spectacular view of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

O’Neill used proceeds from cocaine and marijuana sales to finance an expensive lifestyle, including cars, recreational vehicles and annual trips to the Daytona 500 race in Florida.

He pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to distribute cocaine/marijuana and conspiracy to launder money. He was sentenced last week to 180 months in prison.

Others arrested in the case include O’Neill’s wife, Lecia D. O’Neill, as well as Gary A. Votava; Christopher B. McFarland; Stephen J. McCabe; and Debra L. Margraff, all of Coeur d’Alene.

Arrested in Kennewick was Manuel Rivera. Investigators believe Rivera supplied cocaine to O'Neill, who in turn supplied it to others. He pleaded guilty this month to a cocaine charge as well as a forfeiture charge that calls for hm to give up $50,000 and an SUV believed to have transported the drugs.

The other codefendants also have entered plea agreements and are awaiting sentencing.

O'Neill sold cocaine to a confidential informant six times, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He and his wife also deposited about $200,000 into their bank account over a six-year period while claiming an income of little more than $3,000.

Chris McFarland was a longtime friend of O'Neill. He sold cocaine to "a handful of persons" through Chillers and used the proceeds to pay back O'Neill for fronted cocaine, according to court documents.

McFarland's wife, Linda McFarland, owned Chiller's. She's charged in Kootenai County District Court.

Authorities began investigating O'Neill after finding his phone number in former school booster and imprisoned cocaine addict Jerry Carlson's phone records.

Past coverage:

May 26: DEA raid shuts down alleged cocaine ring

Public safety news from the Inland Northwest and beyond.