News and Press Releases

Conspirators Broke into Pharmacies Throughout the Northwest and West Coast

April 27, 2007

ANTHONY J. HOUSER, 28, of Everett, Washington, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle in connection with a widespread scheme to burglarize pharmacies located in the Pacific Northwest and to sell prescription narcotics. HOUSER pleaded guilty to the felony offense of pharmacy burglary, punishable by up to twenty years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

As part of his guilty plea, HOUSER admitted joining with other Snohomish County men in burglarizing pharmacies in the State of Washington. Specific burglaries acknowledged by HOUSER included the September 7, 2004, burglary of Bartell Pharmacy (Silver Lake), 11012 19th Avenue SE, in Everett, Washington, and the July 20, 2004, burglary of Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, 25 South Colville Road, in Walla Walla, Washington.

Court documents indicate that the Bartell Pharmacy burglary was committed during the early morning hours while the pharmacy was closed. The telephone lines leading to the pharmacy were cut by the burglars prior to entry in order to disable the remote security alarm of the pharmacy. HOUSER and a co-conspirator then cut through an adjoining business (Schucks Auto Supply) in order to gain entry to the pharmacy. Once inside, the pharmacy’s inventory of Schedule II and III controlled substances was located and taken, including the pharmacy’s stock of oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and fentanyl, among other powerful narcotics. In excess of 20,000 pills were removed, with a street value of more than $40,000.

In the case of Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, HOUSER and a co-conspirator traveled from Everett, Washington, to Walla Walla in a rental vehicle in order to commit the burglary. The phone lines were again cut prior to entry. Upon entering the pharmacy, the burglars discovered the drugs they sought were contained in a safe. HOUSER and a co-conspirator loaded the safe into a vehicle and drove away with it. They later broke into the safe, recovering thousands of oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, and morphine pills, among other drugs.

The drugs taken during the burglaries were sold to others for profit. HOUSER received several thousand dollars for participating in the burglaries.

As part of his plea agreement, HOUSER agreed to pay restitution to each of the pharmacies for the physical damage caused, and for the value of the drugs taken.

Selling the stolen drugs can net a profit of more than $100,000 per burglary. High strength oxycodone can sell for as much as $80 per pill, fentanyl patches (another narcotic pain medication) can sell for $50 per patch. These drugs are then consumed by addicts and others, without a valid prescription, posing harm to themselves and society in general. The non-prescribed use of such drugs has resulted in serious medical calamities to individuals in the State of Washington between 2004 and the present.

Thus far, 15 Snohomish County individuals have entered felony guilty pleas in United States District Court for offenses related to this drug distribution scheme. Those who have pleaded guilty to committing pharmacy burglaries, include Michael Hinkle, 39, Ivan Stoutenburg, 31, Jeremy Swanson, 30 , James Phillips, 24, Kenneth Graham, 29, David Palfrey, 30, and Dale MacDonald, 24. Those who have pleaded guilty to distributing the drugs or committing related crimes include Lyle Woods, 32, Jennifer Hinkle, 34, Todd Downes, 27, Christopher Johnson, Sr., 55, and Christopher Johnson, Jr., 32.

Investigation is continuing and charges against additional participants in this criminal network are anticipated.

HOUSER is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik on July 6, 2007.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NW HIDTA), the Everett Washington Police Department, and the Walla Walla Washington Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ronald J. Friedman.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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