KELSO MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN SW WASHINGTON PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE NETWORK
Defendant Admits He Illegally Sold Methadone
BARON I. LOHNER, 22, of Kelso, Washington pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to Distribution of Methadone. In his plea agreement, LOHNER admits that during 2007 he repeatedly sold methadone pills to others from his residence in Kelso. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton on December 14, 2007.
LOHNER was indicted earlier this month as part of a coordinated law enforcement effort to address a growing problem of prescription drug abuse in Southwest Washington. During the course of this eight month investigation, the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force members used undercover agents, officers and informants to purchase the narcotics. Many of the transactions were recorded on video and audio. LOHNER is the second of six defendants indicted federally to plead guilty. At his plea hearing, LOHNER admitted he was a recovering heroin addict and methadone user who unlawfully sold methadone to others.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, six 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. Cowlitz County has seen increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths from prescription narcotics.
Distribution of Methadone is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
The cases were investigated by the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Today’s arrests involved officers and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, Wahkiakum County Sheriff’s Office, the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office, the Longview Police Department, the Kelso Police Department, the Castle Rock Police Department, the Washington State Patrol, the U.S. Marshal Service, and the Washington State Department of Corrections.
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.