News and Press Releases

Conspirators Broke into Pharmacies Throughout the Northwest and West Coast

September 21, 2007

ANTHONY J. HOUSER, 28, of Everett, Washington, TY NELLES, 30, of Marysville, Washington, and DAVID PALFREY, 30, of Marysville, Washington were each sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to prison terms for participating in a prolific pharmacy burglary and drug distribution ring centered in Snohomish County, Washington.

HOUSER was found guilty of burglarizing a Bartell Pharmacy in Everett Washington, in September 2004, and a Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, in Walla Walla, Washington, in July 2004, and was sentenced to months15 imprisonment. HOUSER was also ordered to serve 3 years of supervised release following imprisonment, and to pay restitution to the pharmacies in the amount of $20,907.99.

NELLES was found guilty of burglarizing Owens Pharmacy, in Red Bluff, California in November 2004, and Save Now Discount Pharmacy, in Lynnwood, Washington, in October 2004, and was sentenced to18 months imprisonment. NELLES was also ordered to serve 3 years of supervised release following imprisonment, and to pay restitution to the pharmacies in the amount of $18,212.50.

PALFREY was found guilty of burglarizing a Rite-Aid Pharmacy in Richland, Washington, in July 2006, and was sentenced to 12 months and one day imprisonment. PALFREY was also ordered to serve 3 years of supervised release following imprisonment, and to pay restitution to the pharmacy in the amount of $15,443.18.

The burglaries were committed during the late evening/early morning hours, when the pharmacy was closed for business. Typically, one of the co-conspirators would cut the telephone lines leading to the pharmacy to disable the remote alarm. One or more burglars would then break into the pharmacy and locate the stocks of controlled substances, while another co-conspirator acted as a lookout outside. The co-conspirators would remain in touch with one another via cellular phones. Drugs regularly removed from the pharmacies included the pharmacy’s inventory of pills, injectables, patches, and medications, containing oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine, meperidine, fentanyl, and amphetamines, among other Schedule II and III controlled substances.

The drugs were distributed to a number of individuals through an established network in Snohomish County. The burglars were compensated for their participation through their receipt of both drugs and cash.

Thus far, 12 individuals have pleaded guilty in United States District Court to acting as pharmacy burglars, and eight individuals have pleaded guilty to distributing pharmaceuticals taken during the burglaries.

Selling the stolen drugs can net an illicit profit of $100,000 to $200,000 per burglary. This is due to the extreme premium for which these drugs sell in an illicit market, well in excess of the wholesale cost to the pharmacy of the drugs. These drugs are 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, hydrocodone, and morphine.

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 Marysville, Washington Police Department, the Redding, California Police Department, Sutherlin, Oregon Police Department, Richland, Washington Police Department, and Monroe, 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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