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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Oregon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 23, 2014

Federal Len Bias Indictment Shows Heroin's Grip Expanding to Smaller Communities

PORTLAND, Ore. – Rockie Morse, 40, of Sweet Home, Oregon, was indicted today for distribution of heroin that resulted in death, announced Amanda Marshall, United States Attorney for the District of Oregon.  Prosecutors also indicted Tammy Tongate, alleged to be the Portland-area source of supply, who made her initial appearance last week.  The federal charges were brought after an investigation led by the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) uncovered a major influx of heroin into Sweet Home, Oregon.  Investigators worked closely with the Portland Police Bureau Drugs and Vice Division, the Sweet Home Police Department, Lebanon Police Department, and the Linn County District Attorney’s Office.

Ashley Marie Ames, 25, a resident of Lebanon, Oregon, was found dead on October 2, 2013.  Investigators found drug paraphernalia and residue quantities of black tar heroin.  Prior to her death, Ames was scheduled to enter drug treatment.  “Heroin dealers are the grim reapers of the drug trafficking world,” said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall.  “We are seeing a rise in heroin use in rural communities outside the main distribution hubs of Portland, Salem, and Eugene.  I applaud the efforts of the Linn County Sherriff’s Office and the DEA in attempting to get in front of this deadly epidemic.”  A total of 15 individuals have been arrested and are facing federal and state charges stemming from this investigation.

The United States Attorney’s Office has made the investigation and prosecution of drug overdose cases a high priority due to the devastating impact drug distribution has in Oregon.  Several significant drug dealers who would have otherwise gone undetected, have been arrested, successfully prosecuted, and sentenced to prison in both state and federal court as a result of this combined state and local effort to investigate and prosecute drug overdose deaths. 

The federal indictment in this case includes three other defendants in a heroin distribution conspiracy and includes several substantive counts of heroin distribution, including distribution within 1,000 feet of Sweet Home High School.  Count 1 charges Morse and Tongate with distribution of heroin resulting in death and was brought under the federal “Len Bias” statute.  This count carries a statutory mandatory minimum prison term of twenty (20) years, a maximum of life in prison, and a fine of up to $2 million.   

An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.  Trial is set for August 12, 2014, before U.S. District Court Judge Marco Hernandez.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah K. Bolstad.

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Updated January 29, 2015