Dennis Reimer doesn’t look like a big winner these days.
Dressed in jail-issue orange coveralls, he was led into court in handcuffs this week. A girlfriend and niece sobbed in the hallway after officers told them they couldn’t touch or hug him.
Last spring, Reimer won $100,000 in a sweepstakes. A quarter of the money came off the top for taxes, and before Reimer could touch the rest, his ex-wife had attached $36,000 for back child support and interest.
According to court records, Reimer, 35, decided to invest $10,000 of his dwindling winnings in a pound of methamphetamine. An undercover narcotics agent obliged. Now, Reimer’s facing a long stretch in prison.
Reimer’s mother, struggling to retain composure as she left the courthouse, said of his sweepstakes win: “It didn’t make his life any better, did it?”
Federal prosecutors want to make sure no one thinks they targeted Reimer because of his winnings. Actually, he was under investigation for drugs long before he hit the jackpot.
Reimer’s dad, Bud, said disgustedly, “He’s been playing with this … (stuff) for a long time.”
Reimer, of Eagle, Idaho, beat a 1993 meth charge when the Idaho Supreme Court ruled last summer that police officers illegally had searched a compartment on the bottom of his drinking mug. They had stopped him for driving with an open container of alcohol and heard something rattle in the mug’s compartment.
Court records in Reimer’s current case go back to December 1994, when, authorities say, he traded half an ounce of methamphetamine for a .41 Magnum pistol. They also documented other exchanges of small amounts of the drug for guns, for $250 or $300 and, in one case, for a pickup truck.
But it wasn’t until late June, with sweepstakes winnings in hand, that Reimer made his big buy.
The 404 gram purchase was so large, Deputy U.S. Attorney Allen Burrow told the court this week, that authorities knew it wasn’t just for Reimer’s own use. “Mr. Reimer’s purpose was to distribute it,” Burrow said.
Reimer’s best friend, Steve Adams, stood in an icy wind outside the federal courthouse on Monday after Reimer pleaded guilty. If he hadn’t had his big win, Adams said, “He wouldn’t be here now because he wouldn’t have had the money to buy that kind of amount.”
Adams’ wife Sharon, who said Reimer was the godfather to all four of the Adams’ kids, said the only good thing about the mess is that the divorce court required $15,000 of the back child support money to be placed in a trust for Reimer’s son’s education. The boy is 15.
Divorce court records show that Reimer had missed 171 child support payments. He and his ex-wife divorced in 1981, not long after their son was born.
Reimer and a partner were indicted last summer on more than 20 drug and firearms counts. He agreed to plead guilty to two of them: possession of the 404 grams of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, and use of a firearm in drug trafficking. The firearm charge was for trading drugs for a gun.
He’ll be sentenced in February, and could get up to 45 years in prison.
Bud Reimer said he thought his son had paid off some bills, but that costs relating to his court case had also eaten up some of the remaining sweepstakes winnings.
Relatives and friends said they thought Reimer won “the Marlboro sweepstakes,” though a spokeswoman for Philip Morris, parent company of Marlboro cigarettes, couldn’t confirm that. Court records say Reimer won a promotional sweepstakes.
When Reimer won the money, said Reimer’s niece, Nichole Watts, “It blew him away. It blew me away.”
But, she said, “In a little less than a month all of it was gone.”
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