Gang Leader Sentenced to 50 Years for Prescription Drug Trafficking
SPOKANE - – Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, and Douglas James, Acting Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, announced that Arvin Terrill Carmen, 39, of Los Angeles, California, and Spokane, Washington, was sentenced to 50 years in prison by Senior United States District Court Judge William Fremming Nielsen following a five-week jury trial, in November 2014. At the trial, in which he was found guilty of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to distribute oxycodone-based pills, and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone-based pills. In addition to the sentence handed down by Senior United States District Court Judge Nielsen, Carmen was also ordered to serve a life-term of court supervision following his release from federal prison and to pay a $50,000 fine. Carmen has been in custody since his arrest on February 28, 2013.
“The prescription drug abuse problem in the Spokane and surrounding areas is well documented, and while this one conviction and sentencing won’t change those issues overnight, it demonstrates my office’s continual commitment to fight this problem with every resource at our disposal,” said U.S. Attorney Michael C. Ormsby. “While this marks the end of this chapter of this case, we will continue to work side-by-side with DEA and our other federal and local partners to bring drug traffickers to justice.” Evidence presented during court proceedings showed that Carmen initiated a drug-trafficking scheme that involved dozens of other members and associates of the EIGHT TREY GANGSTER CRIPS, a street gang headquartered in Los Angeles County that operated this criminal enterprise between Los Angeles and Spokane. During a cooperative investigation that included the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Spokane Office (DEA-SRO), the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and numerous other federal and state agencies, it was learned that Carmen and others illegally obtained large quantities oxycodone-based prescription pills in Los Angeles and utilized female couriers to transport the pills to Spokane for distribution on the street.
During the early days of the conspiracy, the 80 mg. OxyContin pills were acquired for approximately $40 or less in Los Angeles and sold for approximately $80 each in Spokane. When the manufacturers modified the structure of the 80 mg. pills to discourage such illegal diversion and abuse, the down-line price per pill rose to approximately $125 each in Spokane. When the 80 mg. pills became scarce, 30 mg. Oxycodone pills, which were illegally acquired in Los Angeles for approximately $10-$12 per pill, were sold in Spokane, for approximately $20-$22 per pill. The cash proceeds from Spokane-area sales, often in excess of $100,000 per shipment, were then transported back to Los Angeles, and hidden in the checked baggage of the same, or different, female couriers. Based on the investigation, DEA-SRO initially estimated that possibly as much as 10,000 illegal OxyContin pills were transported to, and distributed in, Spokane every week for years.
Eventually 62 co-conspirators, nearly all with gang affiliations, were charged in an Indictment handed down by a grand jury in January, 2013. Approximately 50 search warrants were simultaneously executed in Los Angeles, Spokane, and Seattle, resulting in the seizure of supplies of oxycodone-based pills, numerous firearms, and cash. Fifty-one co-conspirators have plead guilty. The four who went to trial were convicted, including Carmen.
“It is clear that this organized criminal group contributed to the oxycodone and heroin epidemic in the Pacific NW,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Douglas James. “This lengthy sentence sends a clear message and should serve as a warning to all drug traffickers. I would like to commend the outstanding contributions by all investigative agencies who worked tirelessly on this case.”
Oxycodone is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance and the FDA is trying re-labeling of the drug to prevent abuse, and the United States Justice Department, as well as the DEA have released multiple studies on its abuse. During trial of the four defendants who went to trial and at the multiple sentencing’s for defendants, evidence was presented that this investigation arose out of a concern about the dramatic increase in opiate abuse in Spokane and Eastern Washington. Ormsby made it clear that federal law enforcement will continue its efforts with state and local law enforcement to reduce unlawful opiate use in Eastern Washington. “In addition to continued law enforcement efforts, we will also be partnering with education and public health entities to provide information on the addictive qualities of opiates and the health risks that are increased with illegal use” Ormsby says. He noted a symposium on opioid use and risks was sponsored by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, the University of Washington and the Kittitas County Public Health District involving law enforcement and public health issues associated with opiate use and abuse was attended by over 200 persons in early May of this year.