BOISE – Austin Serb, 20, Christopher Snyder, 24, and Andrew Colwell, 23, of Boise, Idaho, appeared in federal court yesterday on a nine-count federal indictment charging them and eight others with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and heroin; distributing oxycodone, and distributing heroin, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced today.
“Prescription drug abuse, indeed the addiction to opiates and heroin, is a growing national problem and a growing Idaho problem,” said Olson. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners are prepared to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who distribute these dangerous drugs in our community.”
In addition to Serb, Snyder, and Colwell, the defendants named in the federal indictment, returned yesterday by the grand jury sitting in Boise, are:
Jeffery Manchester, 28, of Boise, Idaho
Jordan Baptista, 19, of Boise, Idaho
Travis Fraser, 19, of Boise, Idaho
Kekai Wachi, 19, of Boise, Idaho
Jared Hicks, 22, of Boise, Idaho
Jordan Grainger, 24, of Meridian, Idaho
Ellen McDaniel, 44, of Boise, Idaho
James Acarregui, 29, of Boise, Idaho
A trial date has been set for May 6, 2014, before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge at the federal courthouse in Boise. The remaining defendants have not yet made their initial appearances in court, and no dates have been set.
The indictment alleges that between September 1, 2012, and March 10, 2014, the defendants conspired together to distribute oxycodone and heroin. The indictment alleges that on various dates beginning on August 29, 2013, one or more of the defendants distributed oxycodone or heroin in the Idaho.
The charge of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and heroin carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $1 million, and at least three years of supervised release. Each charge of distribution of oxycodone and heroin is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $1 million, and at least three years of supervised release. A criminal forfeiture allegation contained in the indictment also seeks to forfeit cash proceeds of $1 million as to all defendants.
Olson also announced that the indictment marks the first large-scale prosecution involving investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tactical Diversion Squad. The Tactical Diversion Squad, based in Boise, began operating in January of this year and includes law enforcement personnel from DEA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, the Boise Police Department, the Nampa Police Department, the Meridian Police Department and the Idaho State Police. According to Olson, the Tactical Diversion Squad will target prescription drug crime from all angles, including criminal distribution schemes, health care provider abuse and burglaries.
“Opiate addiction is a dangerous path,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. “Many young Americans start out abusing opiate based pain killers then switch to a cheaper and deadly alternative, heroin. This trend is alarming. These arrests represent a significant stride in Boise area law enforcement's concerted effort not only to combat this growing trend but to get ahead of it.”
“This is a great example of how a citizen tip to Crime Stoppers can lead to a major federal case on an urgent threat to public safety, prescription drug abuse,” said Deputy Chief William Bones of the Boise Police Department. “Prescription drug dealers have the capacity for getting hundreds if not thousands of people addicted creating a market for their criminal activity. They often target young people who have everything to lose by an addiction to drugs like oxycodone and Heroin. As we increase targeted enforcement we also hope this case leads to a greater awareness of the incredible dangers of these drugs before we lose more lives.”
Olson noted that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this week made national comments highlighting the alarming rise nationally in overdose deaths from heroin and prescription pain-killers. Attorney General Holder vowed that the Justice Department would combat the epidemic through a mix of enforcement and treatment efforts. Speaking in a video posted on the Justice Department’s website, Holder noted that between 2006 and 2010, heroin overdose deaths increased by 45 percent. “As part of the law enforcement community in Idaho, we must direct appropriate resources and focus our attention on the most dangerous drugs,” said Olson. “As prescription pain-killer abuse and heroin abuse increase, we must target the trafficking of those drugs. I commend the outstanding work of the Boise Police Department, the DEA Tactical Diversion Squad and the local agencies that are working with us to address this serious community and public safety threat.”
In addition to involving work by the DEA Tactical Diversion Squad, the indictment is the result of a joint investigation of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The investigation was initiated by the Boise Police Department. Other federal agencies participating in the OCDETF program include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Bureau of Land Management, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and U.S. Marshals Service.
The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.
An indictment is a means of charging a person with criminal activity. It is not evidence. The person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.