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Press Release

Vidor Women Guilty of Federal Drug Trafficking Resulting in Multiple Deaths

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Texas

BEAUMONT, Texas – Two Vidor, Texas women have pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox today.

Catherine Ardis, 62, and Michelle Lea Harrington, 51, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, namely hydromorphone, before U.S. District Judge Marcia A. Crone.

               According to information presented in court, Harrington lived at a home located on FM 105 North in Vidor, Texas, in which several other persons, including Ardis, also resided.  Federal agents began their investigation of Harrington and Ardis in June of 2019 after three persons died as a result of opiates purchased from Ardis at this home.  Medical examination of the deceased persons determined that the victims died from poly-drug toxicity resulting from the use of hydromorphone pills, also referred to as Dilaudid.  As part of the factual basis for the plea, Ardis admitted to selling the hydromorphone pills that resulted in the death of the three victims.

“Trafficking of drugs ordinarily only available by prescription places the public at great risk,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox.  “The United States is committed to punishing those that seek to profit by distributing such drugs outside the watchful care of a doctor.”

“The drug trafficker who provides the drug that causes or contributes to the overdose death of a person will be held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven S. Whipple of the DEA Houston Division.  “The DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to commit significant resources to the identification and investigation of those who cause the death of another human, whether by violence or overdose.”

A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the defendants with federal drug trafficking crimes on March 4, 2020.  Under federal statutes, Ardis and Harrington face up to 20 years in federal prison.  The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

               This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Vidor Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Beaumont Police Department, Port Arthur Police Department, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. Anderson.

Updated September 11, 2020

Drug Trafficking