News and Press Releases

Prosecution Part of Federal Emphasis on Growing Pharmacy Robbery Problem

October 16, 2009

BRETT MITCHELL, 19, of Lakewood, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 30 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $9,168 in restitution for robbing a Walgreens Pharmacy in Lakewood, Washington. U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton imposed the sentence, saying he hoped MITCHELL would one day look back and see that his conviction, and his prison term, was one of the best things that ever happened to him, because it would mean he had beaten his addictions.

MITCHELL pleaded guilty on June 12, 2009, admitting that on March 31, 2009, he and another individual planned to rob a pharmacy in order to acquire oxycodone. Oxycodone is a highly abused and addictive Schedule II controlled substance.

BRETT MITCHELL entered the Walgreen’s Pharmacy on Bridgeport Way in Lakewood, and presented a note to the pharmacist demanding oxycodone. After receiving several bottles of oxycodone pills, MITCHELL left the pharmacy, and jumped into the trunk of Jones’ waiting vehicle. Jones then sped away. The police encountered Jones’ vehicle several miles away. MITCHELL was found in the vehicle trunk. 1,800 oxycodone pills, in various strengths, were seized from the car. Earlier this month, Jones was sentenced to 20 months in prison, three years of supervised release and he shares in the $9,168 restitution obligation.

In his sentencing memo, Assistant United States Attorney Kurt Hermanns detailed why the pharmacy robberies pose a heightened danger writing, “when a bank robber steals money, that money is not inherently harmful. When a pharmacy robber steals thousands of pills of oxycodone, its danger of use by the robber and added danger if resold to others, is different and more serious.”

Pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals, where controlled substances are stored constitute protected federal facilities, and burglarizing or robbing such facilities constitutes a violation of federal law.

Washington is experiencing an increasing level of unlawful distribution and consumption of highly addictive prescription drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and federal law enforcement will continue to prosecute such matters in conjunction with state law enforcement authorities, in an effort to address this problem.

This case is part of a Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Prescription Drug Initiative focused upon the unlawful proliferation of pharmaceutical controlled substances and the targeting of pharmacies within the Western District of Washington and elsewhere. The case was investigated by the Lakewood and Puyallup Police Departments in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration Drug Diversion Unit.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kurt Hermanns and 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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