FOURTH PHARMACY BURGLAR PLEADS GUILTY IN CONNECTION WITH PHARMACY BURGLARY AND DRUG DISTRIBUTION SCHEME
Conspirators Broke into Pharmacies Throughout the Northwest and West Coast
JAMES L. PHILLIPS, 24, of Marysville, Washington, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle in connection with a scheme to burglarize pharmacies and sell the prescription narcotics in the State of Washington for thousands of dollars. PHILLIPS pleaded guilty to Pharmacy Burglary in connection with the July 7, 2006, burglary of a Rite Aid Pharmacy in Stanwood, Washington.
According to court documents, PHILLIPS and a co-conspirator broke into the pharmacy during the early morning hours of July 7, while the pharmacy was closed. The telephone lines leading to the pharmacy were cut prior to entry in order to disable the pharmacy’s remote alarm. The men then forced their way into the pharmacy and located and stole more than $20,000 worth of Schedule II and Schedule III prescription drugs, including the pharmacy’s inventory of powerful addictive narcotics, including oxycodone, morphine, and amphetamines. The drugs were thereafter sold to others and distributed in the State of Washington.
This prosecution is part of a continuing effort by law enforcement to detect and bring to justice those committing pharmacy burglaries in Washington and elsewhere. Pharmacy burglaries have skyrocketed in Washington and the Pacific Northwest over the last few years. In 2002, there were only three night break in burglaries in Washington pharmacies. In 2005, by contrast, there were 48 night pharmacy burglaries – the most in the nation. The majority of these burglaries appear connected to an organized criminal ring operating from Snohomish County, Washington. The burglaries are a hazard to the safe operation of pharmacies, and the stolen merchandise is hazardous to those who consume the drugs without a prescription or physician oversight.
Other Snohomish County individuals who have already pleaded guilty in United States District Court to committing pharmacy burglaries in furtherance of this scheme, include Michael Hinkle, 39, Ivan Stoutenburg, 31, and Jeremy Swanson, 30 – all of whom are awaiting sentencing. Investigation is continuing and charges against other participants in this criminal network are anticipated.
Selling the stolen drugs can net an illicit profit in excess of $100,000 per burglary. High strength oxycodone, for example, can sell for as much at $80 per pill. These drugs are then consumed by addicts and others, posing harm to themselves and society in general. A recent 2006 Washington State study cites the escalating number of overdoses resulting in death from the unrestricted use of pharmaceutical controlled substances, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.
“Addressing the problem of the diversion and abuse of controlled pharmaceuticals is one of the top priorities of the Drug Enforcement Administration,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Rodney Benson. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 6 million Americans are currently abusing controlled substance prescription drugs – that is more than the number abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined. Researchers at the Center for Disease Control report that opiate prescription pain killers cause more overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin.
Pharmacy Burglary is a federal crime punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Distribution of such controlled substances is punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.
As part of his plea agreement, PHILLIPS agreed to pay restitution to the pharmacy for damage done to the pharmacy during the burglary and for the loss sustained by the pharmacy and its insurer due to the drugs taken.
PHILLIPS is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik on May 4, 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), and the Stanwood 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.