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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Dozens of drug ring suspects face local trial

Federal prosecutors may boost Spokane’s travel economy the hard way: They intend to transport dozens of suspects indicted in a massive oxycodone distribution ring to Spokane from Los Angeles for prosecution.

Federal agents raided 47 locations between the two cities Feb. 28 and arrested more than 40 suspects. However, more than 20 suspects remain at large as part of an indictment charging 62 individuals with a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone between the two cities.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Russell Smoot and Stephanie Van Marter both said they intend to transport all of the Los Angeles suspects to join the two dozen local suspects currently in custody. The raids followed a three-year investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Spokane Regional Drug Task Force, the Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies.

Two of the Spokane-area suspects, 34-year-old Nicholas DeCaro and Daniel J. Hunka, 23, appeared Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno, who ordered both men held in jail without bond.

Hunka’s attorney waived his bail hearing.

Smoot argued that DeCaro essentially was not capable of being supervised based on his limited criminal history, which includes a state charge of possession of oxycodone.

But defense attorney Aaron Rasmussen said DeCaro has family support that would ensure he makes it to court.

Rasmussen said his client, a former local real estate broker, was doing “extremely well” until he was struck by a car three years ago. “His life kind of fell apart,” Rasmussen said of his client.

DeCaro turned his business over to his father, Frank DeCaro, and had been working maintenance for that realty business. In January, Nicholas DeCaro was assaulted in what Spokane police later called a gang-related beating and retaliation shooting that injured two men.

Smoot noted that DeCaro wasn’t charged in that shooting. “But that certainly raises a yellow if not a red flag,” he said.

Rasmussen countered that DeCaro was the victim, saying “he was the recipient of that assault. That shouldn’t be held against him in any way.”

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