VIDEO: Boise, Meridian residents indicted for oxycodone, heroin trafficking

adutton@idahostatesman.comMarch 12, 2014 

Boise DEA agent Bill Lutz talks about a new task force intended to curb painkiller abuse and growing heroin problem. U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson earlier announced the task force's work led to indictment of 11 people from Boise and Meridian.

AUDREY DUTTON

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies hope a new task force will curb a rise in prescription drug and heroin distribution in the Treasure Valley and statewide. The task force's first large-scale prosecution was announced Wednesday, with the indictment of 11 people from the Treasure Valley.

"As prescription painkiller abuse and heroin abuse increase, we must target the trafficking of those drugs," said U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson.

There is evidence the defendants are responsible for distributing 160,000 oxycodone pills with a total street value of $6.4 million, Olson said.

The following people were indicted Tuesday on charges of distributing and conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and heroin:

  • Austin Serb, 20
  • Christopher Snyder, 24
  • Andrew Colwell, 23
  • Jeffery Manchester, 28
  • Jordan Baptista, 19
  • Travis Fraser, 19
  • Kekai Wachi, 19
  • Jared Hicks, 22
  • Jordan Grainger, 24
  • Ellen McDaniel, 44
  • James Acarregui, 29

All but Grainger are Boise residents. Grainger is from Meridian.

Serb, Snyder and Colwell are scheduled for trial May 6 before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge in Boise. Some of the defendants were not yet in custody as of Wednesday morning.

The indictment claims the 11 people conspired between Sept. 1, 2012, and last Monday to distribute oxycodone – a prescription painkiller — and heroin. One ore more of them distributed the drugs starting Aug. 29, 2013, the indictment says.

The conspiracy charge has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, $1 million fine and at least three years of supervised release. The distribution charge has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, $1 million fine and at least three years of supervised release. The indictment also seeks $1 million in cash proceeds from the defendants.

The Tactical Diversion Squad task force that led to the charges was created in January. It is made up of people from the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, the Ada County Sheriff's Office, the Idaho State Police and police departments of Boise, Nampa and Meridian. The indictment also involved a joint investigation of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, made up of several federal agencies.

The task force is an effort to target prescription drug crime, including distribution, health-care provider abuse and burglaries.

"Many young Americans start out abusing opiate-based painkillers, then switch to a cheaper and deadly alternative, heroin," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. "These arrests represent a significant stride in Boise-area law enforcement's concerted effort not only to combat this growing trend but to get ahead of it."

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

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