Final Oregon Defendant Sentenced in Interstate Opioid Trafficking Scheme
EUGENE, Ore. – Brett Allen McNeal, 37, of Grants Pass, Oregon, was sentenced today to three months in federal prison for distributing oxycodone as part of an interstate opioid-trafficking organization.
The organization was structured around Daniel Cham, a doctor practicing in La Puente, California, who would illegally provide prescriptions for oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other powerful medications in exchange money orders and cash. The narcotics were moved from Southern California through a network of redistributors for eventual sale in Oregon.
“At a time when the opioid crisis continues to worsen in Oregon, some medical providers aim to profit off addiction. The drug trafficking network that grew from Dr. Cham’s criminal activity contributed to the overdose deaths of two people, including a young woman here in Oregon” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “This conduct is reprehensible. Criminal organizations who traffic opioids will be dismantled, person-by-person, until every last participant has been prosecuted.”
“Corrupt doctors and dealers who cash in on the opioid epidemic are fueling the cycle of dependence and addiction in our community. In doing so, they put lives at risk and make it that much more difficult for the most vulnerable to overcome the pull of these narcotics,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “This is a health care problem, a crime problem and a societal problem - and one that will take many partners working together to address fully.”
Cham would write prescriptions to individuals both known and unknown to him and to others he knew to be prolific drug dealers and addicts. He regularly sold prescriptions to John Bryden, an Oregon resident, who in turn would sell them to other co-conspirators, including Kevin Grimes, Marcela Cooper, and Austin Alderete, for distribution across Oregon.
McNeal purchased oxycodone from Alderete and sold it for a profit to end users. One of those end users, Jessica Morretti, died of an overdose on April 13, 2012. According to text messages on Moretti’s cell phone from the evening she overdosed, McNeal had provided her with five 30mg oxycodone pills the same day. An analysis of post-mortem toxicology reports indicated that the lethal amount of oxycodone in Moretti’s system could have come from multiple sources, including McNeal.
McNeal admitted to law enforcement that he had purchased 30mg oxycodone pills from Alderete on multiple occasions for $15-20 apiece. Alderete would at a times front McNeal up to 100 oxycodone pills.
McNeal is the sixth defendant overall and last prosecuted in Oregon to be sentenced for their role in the trafficking organization. Other sentenced defendants include:
- Daniel Cham, 49, of Covina, California – 160 months in prison and three years’ supervised release (sentenced in the Central District of California)
- Kevin Grimes, 46, of Calimesa, California – 37 months in prison and three years’ supervised release
- Austin Alderete, 32, no known residence – 21 months in prison and three years’ supervised release
- Maricela Ann Cooper, 27, of Central Point, Oregon – time served in prison and three years’ supervised release
- Laurie Ryan, 59, of Jackson County, Oregon – 18 months’ probation (sentenced in Jackson County Circuit Court)
Tracy Townsend, a high-level co-conspirator of Cham’s from California, remains at large. John Bryden died before being prosecuted.
McNeal previously pleaded guilty to a criminal information charging him with distribution of oxycodone in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Upon completion of his prison sentence, he will be on supervised release for three years.
This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.
Drug abuse affects communities across the nation, and opioid abuse continues to be particularly devastating. The CDC reports that from 1999 to 2016, more than 630,000 people have died from a drug overdoses. In 2016, 66% of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury or death in the United States. In Oregon, the total number of deaths related to drug use increased 11 percent between from 2013 to 2017, with 546 known drug related deaths last year.
If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, please call the Lines for Life substance abuse helpline at 1-800-923-4357 or visit www.linesforlife.org. Phone support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also text “RecoveryNow” to 839863 between 8am and 11pm PST daily.