Federal Indictment Charges Five Conspirators with Distribution of Heroin Resulting in the Death of 21 Year Old Laurin Putnam
PORTLAND, Ore. - Amanda Marshall, U. S. Attorney for the District of Oregon announced today the federal indictment of Sergio Quezada Lopez, 33, Braulio Acosta Mendoza, 34, Jose Romo Gonzalez, 22, Jose Aldan Soto, 30, and Julian Hernandez Castillo, 31, for conspiracy that resulted in the death of Laurin Putnam. All five defendants are citizens of Mexico and are currently the subjects of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers on their custody status. An affidavit in support of the arrest warrant for Sergio Quezada Lopez has been publicly filed in the U. S. District Court of Oregon. Lopez is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Acosta today at 1:30 in Courtroom 11B.
The federal charges stem from an investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) through its Salem DEA Drug Task Force, and the Keizer Police Department with assistance from the Salem Police Department; the Marion County Sheriff's Office; the Oregon State Police; the Washington County Interagency Narcotics Team (WIN); the Portland Police Bureau; the Oregon State Medical Examiner; the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force; the Oregon Department of Justice; and, the Portland based Highway Interdiction Team.
Laurin Putnam, 21, was found dead at her residence in Keizer, Oregon on April 16, 2012, from an apparent heroin overdose. In the 96 hours following her death, investigators made numerous arrests and conducted searches in Washington County, Multnomah County, Marion County, and Vancouver, Washington seizing over four pounds of heroin, additional quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine, two guns, and over $20,000 in US Currency. This multi-state investigation is ongoing.
"Oregonians need to understand that heroin has saturated our state. Too many lives have been lost to this deadly drug whose victims represent a cross section of society. Even our rural communities are experiencing heroin deaths," said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall. "The loss of Laurin Putnam, who had just celebrated her twenty first birthday in March, is a tragedy, one that we are becoming all too familiar with in our state. From 2010 to 2011, Portland saw over a 60% increase in deaths from heroin. At this rate, 2012 will see over a hundred lives lost from heroin. This has to stop. We have to work together to expand prevention, treat addiction and hold accountable those who introduce this poison into our communities. As U.S. Attorney, I am firmly committed to combining forces with all levels of federal, state and local law enforcement, educators, and our medical and treatment providers, to put an end to this epidemic. This widespread investigation moved swiftly and effectively after Laurin's death in a demonstration of law enforcement's commitment to those who have lost their loved ones in such a senseless and often sudden way, and to the safety of the public that grieves for and with these families."
Together with other counts in the indictment related to distribution of heroin in Oregon and Washington, Count 1 charges the five defendants with a conspiracy to distribute heroin resulting in death. For any defendant convicted of a conspiracy to distribute heroin resulting in death, who has a prior felony drug conviction, the statutory mandatory minimum prison term is life with no possibility of release, and up to a $20,000,000 fine. For any defendant convicted of the same crime with no prior felony drug conviction, the mandatory minimum prison term is twenty years and up to a $10,000,000 fine.
"We will not allow traffickers to remain anonymous as they indiscriminately sell their poison without fear of reprisal," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. "Those responsible for Laurin Putnam's overdose are distributors of death and despair, from the source and his runners, to his wholesalers and retail level street dealers. This is an exceptional case wherein we were able to follow the heroin supply chain from the victim's arm to the doorstep of an out of state source of supply whom she had never even met. DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue our efforts to combat drug trafficking at every level."
"The tragic death of Ms. Putnam was the fourth heroin overdose death this year in Keizer and it highlights the growing heroin problem in our area," stated Chief H. Marc Adams of the Keizer Police Department. "Our partnership with the DEA and area law enforcement in this investigation shows that we can and will track down those who are linked to her death and hold them accountable."
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Arraignment of Sergio Quezada Lopez is set for Friday, May 4, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. before Magistrate Judge John Acosta. The federal arraignments of the remaining defendants are likely to be scheduled in the near future.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathleen Bickers and Kemp Strickland.