Fentanyl Drug Bust Nabs 53 Suspects & Involves Prison Inmates

Massive Drug Bust Across The State  NOTICE FROM U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE IN ANCHORAGE JANUARY 25TH, 2024  Drug trafficking, violent crime,...


Massive Drug Bust Across The State 

NOTICE FROM U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE IN ANCHORAGE

JANUARY 25TH, 2024 


Drug trafficking, violent crime, conspiracy to distribute fentanyl resulting in death, continuing criminal enterprise and money laundering are among the charges against leaders, members and associates.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska announced today that 53 people have been charged through nine indictments in connection with a large-scale organized crime ring operating within the state of Alaska.

U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker of the District of Alaska, Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Zahn of the Drug Enforcement Administration Anchorage District Office, Assistant Inspector In Charge Jarrod Resendez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Seattle Division, Special Agent in Charge Antony Jung of the FBI Anchorage Field Office, and Capt. Cornelius Sims of the Alaska State Troopers made the announcement alongside Special Agent in Charge Adam Jobes of the IRS Criminal Investigation Seattle Field Office and Chief Michael Kerle of the Anchorage Police Department during a press conference at the James M. Fitzgerald U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building.

According to court documents, Heraclio Sanchez-Rodriguez, 57, ran a transnational organized crime and drug trafficking ring targeting Alaska. Throughout the entirety of the conspiracy, Sanchez-Rodriguez was an inmate in a California state prison. He allegedly used contraband cell phones to communicate with his suppliers in Mexico and their brokers, leaders in California and Oregon, and distributors of the drug trafficking enterprise in Alaska.

From February 2022 to July 2023, law enforcement intercepted roughly 36 kilograms of fentanyl, 27.3 kilograms of meth, 11.3 kilograms of heroin and 118 grams of cocaine connected to the enterprise, with the majority destined for various communities across the state. According to the indictments, the enterprise mainly used high-level suppliers to send drug packages through the U.S. Postal Service from Oregon and California to Alaska. Distributors located in Alaska would receive the packages and distribute the drugs to Alaskan communities as small as Goodnews Bay, Tyonek, Sand Point and Savoonga per Sanchez-Rodriguez’s instruction.

The indictments charge that Christina Quintana, 38, who was an inmate at Hiland Mountain Correctional Facility in Eagle River during the entirety of the conspiracy, was known as one of Sanchez-Rodriguez’s “wives,” which was a title reserved for high-ranking members of the enterprise. Her role in the conspiracy was allegedly to recruit soon to be released inmates from Hiland to be distributors for the enterprise. Upon release, the newly recruited members are alleged to have received packages of drugs to distribute the drugs across Alaska.

At the direction of Sanchez-Rodriguez and in furtherance of the conspiracy, Tamara Bren, 41, who was one of Sanchez-Rodriguez’s  “wives,” and Kevin Peterson, 29, another member of the enterprise, allegedly killed Sunday Powers and Kami Clark near Trapper Creek in May 2023. Court documents allege Sanchez-Rodriguez, Bren and Peterson coordinated the kidnapping, where the victims were kidnapped through carjacking, murdered and buried in a shallow grave.

The grand jury also charged Edward Ginnis, 38, and Samantha Pearson, 37, of North Pole, with offenses related to their role in the conspiracy and with distributing fentanyl to Adam Sakkinen resulting in his death.

Over 25 defendants were also charged with money laundering conspiracy to promote drug trafficking and concealing the source of the funds. Court documents identified at least 76 separate money laundering transactions as part of the investigation, including some made internationally to Mexico.

Defendants in this case include (in alphabetical order):

  1. Alison Giacullo, 40
  2. Amber Young, 28
  3. Amy Garcia, 32
  4. Angela Jasper, 39
  5. Anna Petla, 24
  6. April Chythlook, 28
  7. Ashley Northrup, 35
  8. Catherine Phillips, 40
  9. Christina Quintana
  10. Cloe Sam, 26
  11. Colleen McDaniel, 68
  12. Della Northway, 28
  13. Desiree Green, 45
  14. Douglas Vanmeter, 32
  15. Edward Ginnis
  16. Elroy Bouchard, 58
  17. Erika Badillo, a.k.a “Erica Madrigal,” 42
  18. Erindira Pin, 44
  19. Frieda Gillespie, 50
  20. Gust Romie, 36
  21. Heraclio Sanchez-Rodriguez, a.k.a “Charlie,” “Marco” and “Danny Sanchez”
  22. James Schwarz, 41
  23. Josi Sterling, f.k.a “Josi Philbin,” 35
  24. Julia Brusell, 41
  25. Kaleea Fox, 24
  26. Karen Kasak, 51
  27. Karly Fuller, 30
  28. Kevin Peterson II
  29. Khamthene Thongdy, 45
  30. Krystyn Gosuk, 33
  31. Larry Marsden, 41
  32. Lois Frank, 64
  33. Mario Klanott, 37
  34. Michael Kohler, 35
  35. Michael Soto, 33
  36. Michelle Pungowiyi, 49
  37. Naomi Sanchez, 39
  38. Pasquale Giordano, 45
  39. Patricia Seal-Uttke, 30
  40. Pius Hanson, 40
  41. Richard Frye, 35
  42. Rochelle Wood, 38
  43. Samantha Pearson
  44. Sara Orr, 32
  45. Shanda Barlow, 34
  46. Shania Agli, 25
  47. Stormy Cleveland, f.k.a “Stormy Powell,” 37
  48. Tamara Bren
  49. Tamberlyn Solomon, 25
  50. Tiffani Couch, 30
  51. Twyla Gloko, 36
  52. Valerie Sanchez, 26
  53. Veronica Sanchez, 49

Most defendants made their initial court appearances over the past four months before U.S. Magistrate Judges of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska.

The Drug Enforcement Administration Seattle Division Office and Anchorage District Office, FBI Anchorage Field Office, IRS Criminal Investigation Seattle Field Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service Seattle Division and Anchorage Domicile, Homeland Security Investigations Anchorage, Alaska Office, Alaska State Troopers, Anchorage Police Department and Palmer Police Department, with significant law enforcement support from the U.S. Marshals Service, are investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephan Collins, Christopher Schroeder, Karen Vandergaw and Alana Weber are prosecuting the case.

This investigation and prosecution are part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”), which identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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