Heroin Trafficking Conspiracy Broken Up
But Opioid Addiction a Growing Problem Regionally and Nationally
MARQUETTE, MICHIGAN — United States Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr., announced the results of a joint investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Michigan State Police and its drug team, the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET), and the Forsyth Township Police Department into heroin trafficking from Detroit to Marquette County from 2012 to 2015.
The investigation led to convictions of the following people:
Lamarol Travron Abram, age 39, of Detroit, Michigan, was sentenced to 170 months in federal prison after being convicted of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine from 2012 to 2015. Abram’s case was transferred to the Eastern District of Michigan. He was convicted there and sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. O’Meara in Ann Arbor on March 10, 2016.
Megan Marie Tinney, age 25, of Gwinn, Michigan, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison after being convicted of the conspiracy charge along with Abram. U.S. District Judge R. Allan Edgar sentenced Tinney in Marquette on May 18, 2016.
Jimmy Wayne McFied, age 33, of Gwinn, Michigan, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell to 48 months in prison following a conviction for distribution of heroin.
Carlton Murray, Jr., age 37, of Gwinn, Michigan, was sentenced by Judge Edgar to 30 months in federal prison after being convicted of possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to distribute.
Rachel Lynn Hanson, age 32, of Ishpeming, Michigan, was sentenced by Judge Bell to 151 months in federal prison after being convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
These convictions do not end the local problem with heroin and prescription opiates. Quite the opposite. The information gathered in this investigation reveals that a significant demand for heroin exists in Marquette County. DEA investigators conservatively estimate, based on information uncovered in the investigation, that Abram sold a minimum of several ounces of heroin per month for more than three years in the local area. It is believed that he could have sold a great deal more.
The Center for Disease Control has described prescription painkiller overdoses as a "public health epidemic." In fact, addiction to opioids (heroin and prescription opiate painkillers) is growing, and annual opioid-related deaths now exceed the number of annual traffic fatalities. A nationwide, county by county depiction of annual death rates from drug poisoning from 1999-2014 by county can be found at http://blogs.cdc.gov/nchs-data-visualization/drug-poisoning-mortality/
Nationally, about 9 people per 100,000 die from opioid abuse annually. That equates to about 78 people per day, and about 28,500 per year. And Michigan is one of the states that his hardest hit by the epidemic. For example, in Michigan, the number of babies treated for neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has doubled in recent years. NAS is a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs while in the mother’s womb. Hospitals in the Upper Peninsula had the highest rate of NAS in the state by far, with a rate of 21 cases per 1,000 births in 2014.
Ms. Tinney’s case demonstrates how opiate addiction can impact multiple generations. She began using prescription opiates many years ago and was using these substances daily by the age of 21. Now 25, she has given birth to two children and been unable to hold down any form of employment. She will now be spending the next 3-4 years in prison while someone else raises her children.
Tinney, in contrast to most addicts, however, has a unique opportunity. During her sentencing hearing, Judge Edgar recommended that she participate in the Federal Bureau of Prison’s Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP), which is a 9-month program offered to federal inmate with significant drug issues. These inmates reside in a separate unit from general population and devote their full day to programming, work, school and vocational activities. RDAP has been shown to be very successful in preventing recidivism and relapse and is frequently requested by drug-addicted federal convicts.
Through criminal prosecutions, law enforcement works to deter drug trafficking and spread awareness of the dangers posed by illicit drug use. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s efforts extend beyond prosecutions. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has offered and will continue to offer presentations on the dangers of opioid addiction, the extent of the drug diversion problem and challenges for law enforcement to audiences that include doctors and medical providers, public radio listeners, local television media affiliates, state and local law enforcement officers, the State Attorney General’s Office and even local elected officials.
To spread awareness of the dangers opioids pose, the Department of Justice has sponsored a 45-minute documentary film entitled "Chasing the Dragon," https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2016/february/raising-awareness-of-opioid-addiction/raising-awareness-of-opioid-addiction. The film depicts the harsh reality of opioid addiction and the rapid path to abuse, addiction and too frequently death. It contains frank discussions of the impact of opiates and heroin on the lives of users and their families. The language and the outcomes are not pleasant, but the film can serve as an instructive tool for discussions with parents and students. U.S. Attorney Miles has begun reaching out to school districts in West Michigan to begin a dialogue about how to spread awareness among vulnerable youth of the dangers of opioids. Any school district interested in such a conversation, should contact the U.S. Attorneys Office.