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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Four found guilty in federal painkiller case

Four defendants in a scheme that brought thousands of illicit painkillers weekly to Spokane from California were found guilty Friday by a federal jury.

Arvin Carmen, Donta Blackmon, Brandon Chavez and Karlynn Tones were convicted of various charges including distribution of oxycodone, a painkiller that’s outlawed for nonprescription use. Carmen also was found guilty of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise for his role in the scheme.

Friday’s guilty verdicts followed a three-week jury trial and multiple plea deals in the case, which also involved Sally Guthrie, owner of the Flamin’ Joes chain of hot wing restaurants. A total of 62 people were indicted for their roles in the scheme, filling the Spokane County Jail with out-of-state perpetrators and drawing scrutiny from defense attorneys about the extent of wiretaps used to collect evidence in the investigation, which began in 2011.

Details of the case have trickled out through court filings, and prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern Washington declined to comment Monday, pending the April sentencing hearings for the four convicted defendants.

Carmen faces up to 40 years in federal prison for his role in the scheme, which involved women with ties to California gangs flying to Spokane and selling pills on the street, according to unsealed court records. Federal authorities joined the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force and began recording phone calls and text messages of the alleged conspirators, leading them to seize cash and drugs from luggage at Spokane International Airport, according to court records.

Guthrie and others pleaded to lesser charges and have received prison sentences of varying lengths. Carmen was acquitted of a firearms charge that would have tacked on an additional sentence of up to five years. He was convicted of bank robbery in California and imprisoned for five years before moving to Eastern Washington in 2009, according to court records.

Richard Haynes, who also was indicted as a leader of the conspiracy, pleaded guilty to charges in May and received a 25-year prison sentence.

Kip Hill

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

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