News and Press Releases

Conspirators Broke into Pharmacies Throughout the Northwest and West Coast

March 27, 2008

JOSHUA A. JAMES, 29, of Everett, Washington, was sentenced today to 72 months imprisonment, to be followed by three years supervised release, by Chief Judge Robert S. Lasnik in United States District Court in Seattle in connection with a scheme to burglarize pharmacies in the Pacific Northwest and sell prescription narcotics. JAMES pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burglarize pharmacies, burglarizing pharmacies, distributing narcotics stolen from the pharmacies, and felon in possession of a firearm. At sentencing, Chief Judge Lasnik told JAMES this is “only the beginning of a long struggle” to stay clean and sober. The judge recommended JAMES for a comprehensive drug treatment program while in prison.

According to court documents, JAMES played a central role, teaming with other individuals to burglarize numerous pharmacies in Washington and surrounding states between 2004 and 2006. Specific burglaries committed by JAMES included the January 23, 2004 burglary of Kusler’s Pharmacy in Snohomish, Washington, the March 19, 2004 burglary of White Cross Pharmacy in Sandpoint, Idaho, the December 2, 2004 burglary of Lim’s Pharmacy in Redding, California, the January 27, 2005 burglary of Central Drugs in Medford, Oregon, the October 10, 2005 burglary of Rite-Aid Pharmacy in Monroe, Washington, the January 7, 2006 burglary of Rite-Aid Pharmacy in Davis, California, and the April 13, 2006 burglary of Rite-Aid Pharmacy in Pendleton, Oregon.

The burglaries were committed in common fashion during the late evening/early morning hours while the pharmacies were closed for business. The telephone lines leading to the pharmacies were cut by the burglars prior to breaking into each pharmacy in order to disable the pharmacy’s remote alarm. The burglars wore gloves so as not to leave fingerprints and collected powerful narcotics inside the pharmacy, including thousands of pills containing oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine, meperidine, fentanyl, and amphetamines, among other Schedule II and III controlled substances. The drugs were transported to the Marysville, Washington area, where they were sold to others. JAMES’ actions included selecting the pharmacies to be burglarized, cutting the telephone lines, breaking into pharmacies, and distributing drugs, all of which he did in return for the money earned through the unlawful conduct.

Ultimately, JAMES’ participation in the burglaries was uncovered when he and another burglar were caught on surveillance film in Pendleton, Oregon, and phone records linked the defendant to numerous other burglars and pharmacies which had been burglarized in similar manner.

As part of his sentence, JAMES was ordered to pay restitution to the pharmacies in the amount of $169,802.91 for the drugs taken and was made to forfeit to the United States items he had purchased with drug proceeds, including large screen televisions, cameras, computer equipment, firearms, and a vehicle.

At sentencing, prosecutors highlighted that more fatalities are now caused by prescription drug abuse than by street drugs. Chief Judge Lasnik noted, “We don’t know that there were no fatalities caused by this ring. We don’t know if the users of these drugs didn’t drive off the road, or go the wrong way on the freeway causing a head-on crash. We don’t know that they didn’t neglect their children and leave them malnourished... There are many other victims out there whose lives were effected by this.”

JAMES is the twentieth man to have been sentenced in connection with this matter. Other Snohomish County individuals who have already been sentenced for participating in this pharmacy burglary and drug distribution network include Michael Hinkle, 39, Ivan Stoutenburg, 31, Jeremy Swanson, 30 , James Phillips, 24, Kenneth Graham, 29, David Palfrey, 30, Dale MacDonald, 24, Anthony Houser, 28, Ty Nelles, 30, Brent Murray, 30, Sarah Murray, 31, Michael McConnell, 26, Lyle Woods, 32, Jennifer Hinkle, 34, Todd Downes, 27, Christopher Johnson, Sr., 55, Christopher Johnson, Jr., 32, and Alex Brand, 23.

Charges against remaining participants in this criminal network are anticipated.

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), Snohomish County Drug Task Force, Marysville, Washington Police Department, Pendleton, Oregon Police Department, Monroe, Washington Police Department, and Everett, 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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