Defense Attorney and Client Charged with Conspiracy to Smuggle Drugs into Anchorage Jail
Anchorage, Alaska – Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that a criminal defense attorney and her client have been charged for allegedly smuggling drugs into the State of Alaska Department of Corrections (DOC) Anchorage Correctional Complex (ACC) for distribution to inmates.
Kit Lee Karjala, 54, a criminal defense attorney in Anchorage, and her client, Christopher Brandon Miller, aka “Mellow,” 33, who is currently an inmate at ACC, have both been named in a criminal complaint that charges each of them with three federal crimes: (1) drug conspiracy; (2) distribution of, and possession with intent to distribute, controlled substances; and (3) providing and possessing contraband in a prison.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, beginning as early as June 2016 and no later than December 2016, and continuing until the present, Karjala allegedly passed drugs to co-conspirator inmates, including Miller, during in-person attorney-client visits. Karjala represented Miller, but was not counsel of record for the other inmates with whom she allegedly conspired. Because Karjala represented to DOC that these meetings were allegedly professional visits, DOC permitted her to meet with Miller and the other co-conspirator inmates in a room with no physical barriers separating them. More specifically, after Karjala handed a package of drugs to the co-conspirator inmate during the visit, the inmate would hide the drugs inside his body, while Karjala attempted to shield the inmate from the view of DOC security cameras and/or personnel. When the inmate and Karjala concluded their meeting, the inmate transported the drugs inside his body back to his jail cell. The inmate later distributed the drugs to other ACC inmates for profit.
For example, as further detailed in the complaint, on May 2, 2017, Karjala requested a professional visit with Miller. During the meeting, Karjala allegedly passed drugs to Miller, who in turn hid them in his body. Per DOC procedure, Miller was subjected to dry-cell protocol from May 2 until May 5, 2017, during which Miller excreted multiple foreign objects, including a mixture and substance containing a distributable quantity of heroin, as well as suspected Suboxone strips.
The complaint details financial deposits between inmates that support the allegations of drug distribution, as well as transfers of money to accounts associated with Karjala from a co-conspirator inmate whom Karjala did not represent.
Karjala was arrested yesterday, May 10; Miller is in state custody. Karjala is scheduled to appear in federal court today at 11:00 AM before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin F. McCoy to face these charges.
The law provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000 or both for the most serious charges alleged in the complaint. Under federal sentencing statutes, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendants.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Alaska State Troopers (AST) conducted the investigation, with substantial assistance from DOC, leading to the charges in this case.
“It is the responsibility of law enforcement to protect the public from drug traffickers, regardless of their stated profession. Drugs in the prison system endanger the welfare of not only inmates, many of whom are already struggling with drug addiction, but also jail personnel,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder. “We will continue to work with the FBI, the Alaska State Troopers, and the Department of Corrections to investigate and prosecute people who endanger the welfare of our community and have a corruptive effect on our criminal justice system.”
“These arrests are a culmination of the working relationship between the FBI, the Alaska State Troopers, and the Department of Corrections,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Marlin Ritzman. “The Bureau, AST, and DOC are dedicated to eradicating any illegal activity that takes place within our jurisdiction.”
Charges contained in a criminal complaint are merely allegations, and every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.