Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The cases involved methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs smuggled into southeast Alaska.
Neptali Yadao Dadia, 41 of Ketchikan was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy M. Burgess, to serve 10 years in prison, followed by eight years of supervised release, after previously pleading guilty to methamphetamine conspiracy. At the time of the offense, Dadia was on supervised release from a previous federal drug conviction. Alaska State Troopers said they uncovered a drug conspiracy in October, 2017. Dadia, 41, Jaypee Tolso Lorenzo, 32, and Matthew Speers, 28, were all charged with drug conspiracy. Tolso Lorenzo received 15 months and Speers five years in prison. Troopers intercepted a parcel of methamphetamine in the case. This is the second time in just over five years that Dadia has pleaded guilty to federal drug charges, admitting to possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it in a 2015 case. In that case, Dadia was sentenced to five years in prison and five years of supervised release. The plea agreement alleges the men coordinated the sale of meth in Ketchikan by working with a co-conspirator outside the country and another co-conspirator to ship meth up from Las Vegas to Ketchikan using commercial package delivery services.
Chantel Jalynn Epstein changed her plea from not guilty to guilty to drug conspiracy charges. She was also charged with the use of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug crime. The government dismissed the weapons charge. Epstein, 28, allegedly conspired to bring in $200,000 in illegal drugs to Juneau. Authorities seized almost three pounds of methamphetamine, over five ounces of heroin, and over an ounce of cocaine. The drugs had been placed in a package that was addressed to 1050 Salmon Creek Lane. The package was flagged as being suspicious by the US Postal Service and was brought to Juneau Police. K-9 Buddy was able to confirm the presence of narcotics. The government alleged that Epstein was involved in drug distribution between May and August of this year. The sentence guidelines for the crime is between 10 years to life and fines that range up to $10 million. Epstein will qualify for a downward departure from these guidelines. She also faces five years to life on supervised release. Epstein at first, asked for a delay during the plea hearing, to have more time to discuss the details with her attorney.
Authorities allege the drugs were stuffed inside a speaker that was mailed to Juneau.
Investigators confiscated the drugs and made up dummy substances to replace them with, sealing the contents back inside the speaker enclosure, and bugging the box so that investigators could both track its location via GPS, as well as know when the box was opened.
An officer dressed as a postal employee delivered the box to the original address at 1050 Salmon Creek Lane in Juneau. The package was tracked, first picked up by Epstein, then handed off to a co-defendant Kevin Leonard, 42, back and forth before eventually coming to rest at the Baranof Hotel in Juneau. As part of the plea deal, 12 items of property will also be forfeited to the government that includes $6,400 in cash.
Epstein will be sentenced on February 26, 2019.
Bryan O’Neil Yambao Arce, 40, pled guilty to a charge of drug conspiracy. Authorities allege that Arce, between December 10, 2015 and April 14, 2017, conspired to distribute over 50 grams of meth and some heroin in the Juneau area. He was arrested at the Juneau International Airport in April, 2017. 202 grams of methamphetamine and a mixture of methamphetamine and heroin were seized. Attorneys reached agreement to recommend a sentence of 84 months in prison. Arce also gave up his right to appeal the sentence. $3,946 was seized by the government and forfeited by Arce. The guideline sentence is between five and 40 years behind bars, up to $5 million in fines and life on supervised release. His sentence hearing was scheduled for February 26.
Tiffany Spaulding, 35, pled guilty to drug conspiracy charges and was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison and five years of supervised release. She was arrested in August, 2017 at 427 4th Street in Juneau. Her co-defendant, Christian Peters, 45, pled guilty and received 30 months in prison. U.S. Postal Service Inspector Aaron Behnen came across a suspicious package from California on Aug. 6, 2017. It was sent to “Rosetta Stone” at the suspects’ address and contained a large canister of coffee filled with 50 pills identified as oxycodone and 221 grams of suspected methamphetamine. Federal officials placed an electronic alerting and tracking device inside the package and waited for it to be opened.
After the mail worker knocked on the door, Spaulding retrieved the package and went inside, according to the complaint. Peters arrived about 15 minutes later and the electronic monitoring device alerted the investigators that the parcel had been opened about an hour after that.
U.S District Judge Timothy Burgess said there was strong evidence that Spaulding was an average participant in the conspiracy. He noted there is a five year mandatory minimum in the case. The government requested the maximum sentence.
US Attorney Jack Schmidt said the effect of narcotics on small communities has led to the decline in the quality of life of citizens in southeast Alaska. "They satisfy their addictions by committing property crimes, burglarizing and breaking into cars. There is a steady increase in violence in many cases now."
He said Spaulding is a drug addict and the addiction is something she will have to deal with for the rest of her life. He requested a 500-hour drug treatment program for the defendant. "People are dying from these substances due to the purity and the pure volume of the number of cases of distribution of methamphetamine."
Public Defender Jamie McGrady said Mr. Peters had been receiving drug packages for 18 months before her client got involved with him. "They moved in together, he was dealing drugs, she was an addict, and she took advantage of that source of supply."
Judge Burgess said there were text messages on Spaulding's cell phone that showed she was setting up the drug deals.
McGrady said Spaulding has successfully completed drug treatment, holds a job, looks healthier, and complied with all the conditions of her release.
"She has been doing great and she can comply with conditions of her probation," McGrady added.
Faith Rogers spoke on behalf of Spaulding's changes and improvements. "I don't see Tiffany as being a threat to society, I don't see putting her in prison as doing a benefit to the community. She can better serve her time on an ankle monitor. I would hate to see someone who has made great progress in the last year be locked up, where that progress would be highly likely to get turned around."
Rogers said she believed Spaulding would be best served helping her family.
Judge Burgess said the defendant has demonstrated an awareness of her own problems and has taken substantial steps to make changes in her life. "She has made a lot of progress in that regard. I hope she qualifies for the drug treatment program. It would be tragically ironic if she didn't qualify for a program that would help her transition faster back into society. She has worked so hard to get her problem under control."
Burgess pointed out Congress has set a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in this case because in part because of the amount of drugs involved.
"As a mother what would you say to someone convicted of selling drugs to your daughter?"
Bradley Grasser, 63, was sentenced for 120 months for trafficking methamphetamine in Ketchikan. He will be placed on supervised release for 10 years. He pled guilty to methamphetamine conspiracy.
The guideline sentence was 30 years to life and a fine of up to $40 million.
Schmidt said this case is aggravated because its a very small community and a lot of drugs, "The defendant ran a business where he collected scrap metal. Meth addicts would around picking up scrap metal and he supplied them methamphetamine in return."
Schmidt said due to the aggravating circumstances in the case, he requested life on supervised release. "He's had a couple of robberies where he served nearly 14 years, another drug charge for five years, he's served a significant amount of time."
Schmidt said the sentence will keep Grasser out of commission until he's over 70 years old.
Grasser said he regrets going back to using drugs after being clean for a long time. "I really didn't know that meth was all about. I've learned a lot since then and how bad it is. I tried to cooperate. I regret all I've done."
Grasser said he has 13 grand children and really doesn't want to spend the rest of his life in prison. "I know it was wrong with what I did. I tried to make amends by giving all my stuff up."
McGrady said it was a complicated case because two of the three packages of drugs, were meant for him. She said his co-defendants were never indicted. "All the weight fell on Mr. Grasser. He had no drugs in his possession. The guns were his deceased girlfriend's guns."
McGrady said Grasser was working as a fisherman and that his family depends heavily upon him. She argued that Grasser was depressed about his girlfriend's death and started to use methamphetamine heavily.
"He felt he should give back to the community for his part in the conspiracy and didn't oppose the forfeiture, he just wanted to keep one motorcycle."
Authorities allege Grasser was a drug trafficker for over 20 years. Police seized drugs, $64,000 in cash, 11 firearms, boats, a motor home, several motorcycles and trailers in the case. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Rikk Rambo said the drug smuggling and distribution ring operated in Klawock, Alaska on Prince of Wales Island, and in Ketchikan.
Several of these packages, containing on average 15 ounces of meth, were intercepted via a collaboration with Alaska State Troopers and the United States Postal Service Inspectors (USPIS).
The confidential source said with each cash payment that Grasser sent without receiving a corresponding package, his behavior became more and more erratic. However, according to the report, he kept sending for more.
The source said in the report that by August of 2016, Grasser was “freaking out” and suspecting his co-conspirators of intercepting his shipments.
USPIS said that at least some of the parcels sent by Grasser and his surrogates contained “loose cash or US currency” corresponding with the amount of meth Grasser ordered. These packages were allowed to proceed to their destination, however, the meth parcels were seized by US Postal Inspectors.
Out of these dozen tracked payments in 2016 by Grasser surrogates, one surrogate responsible for payments listed in Agent Rambo’s report raised a red flag due to informant testimony.
In January and May, Micki Decker of Craig, Alaska sent “parcels” to Annette. Noted in Rambo’s report, Decker died in May of last year “under suspicious circumstances.” The Alaska State Troopers verify her death to be May 25, less than two weeks after sending a payment in May to the Washington connection. Decker, 63 was killed in a single car accident at Mile 9.5 of the Klawock-Hollis Highway in 2016.
Grasser would mail cash to a source. The source would then either mail Grasser the meth “parcels” or else deliver them via courier. The source would then personally delivered a meth shipment weighing eight pounds.
The relatively large move was delivered by sea in a shipping container, guarded by what CS2 believed to be “Mexican Nationals” armed with machine guns and “semi-auto assault carbine/machine pistols” similar to Uzi submachine guns.
Though Grasser had been moving meth into Alaska via his Washington connection for years, the case against him only began to materialize in 2016 after an informant decided to go on the record. Dating back to February of 2016, there were roughly twelve parcels shipped from Grasser or his surrogates to Annette in Washington.
Judge Burgess said Mr. Grasser had arrests dating back over 40 years. "I can't even count them."
Burgess said he considered the age and health of the defendant.
Public Defender McGrady argued her client had not had a conviction between 2006 and 2016. "This does not look like Mr. Grasser was a lifelong drug dealer. He's suffered from a heroin addiction for 25 years."
Both the prosecution and defense requested 120 months for Grasser.
All the sentences were handed down by US District Court Judge Timothy Burgess.