ATF

Sample Block


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

District of Minnesota

www.justice.gov/usao/mn

For Immediate Release

August 17, 2012

B. Todd Jones, United States Attorney

Contact: Jeanne F. Cooney, Director of Community Relations
(612)664-5611

Federal Jury Convicts Last of 26-member Drug Ring Trafficking in Twin Ports's Area

MINNEAPOLIS – MINNEAPOLIS—Late yesterday in federal court, a jury found a 43-year-old man from Detroit, Michigan, guilty of conspiring to distribute controlled substances, including oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, and heroin in the Twin Ports' area of Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin. Following a four-day trial, the jury convicted Lawrence Lalonde Colton of one count of conspiracy to distribute the controlled substances listed above as well as three separate counts of distributing or aiding and abetting distribution of oxymorphone.

Colton and 25 co-conspirators were indicted on September 21, 2011. He faces a potential maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison for each count of conviction. Because the federal criminal justice system does not have parole, Colton will spend virtually his entire sentence behind bars. A federal district court judge will impose his actual sentence at a hearing not yet scheduled.

Following today's conviction, Bernard J. Zapor, Special Agent in Charge of the St. Paul Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), stated, "This is another example of the outstanding partnership with the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. We will continue to focus our investigative efforts on illegal narcotics and firearms trafficking in the Twin Ports."

Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, added, "This case will rid us of some long-time habitual offenders as well as help address the growing prescription drug and heroin problem facing our region."

The evidence presented at Colton's trial proved that from 2009 through September of 2011, he conspired with no fewer than 25 co-conspirators to distribute oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, and heroin in the Twin Ports' area. The investigation in this case began in 2010, after law enforcement noted an increase in Opana trafficking in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Opana is a prescription pain killer that contains oxymorphone, a controlled substance.

Law enforcement officers conducted dozens of controlled purchases of Opana and other drugs being sold illegally by ring members. As part of the investigation, authorities also executed search warrants on September 27, 2011, at 11 properties throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. In those searches, they seized large amounts of narcotics as well as firearms, ammunition, and approximately $30,000 in cash.

Seventeen of Colton's co-defendants already have been sentenced for their roles in this drug trafficking operation, while eight have pleaded guilty and are pending sentencing. Twenty-four of the co-conspirators pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, while one pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.

On December 21, 2011, Johnnie Lee Leddell, age 31, of Brooklyn Park pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. In his plea agreement, he admitted that on March 28, 2011, he sold Opana pills to law enforcement officers during a controlled purchase. During the March 29, 2011, execution of a search warrant at his hotel room in Duluth, police also seized 130 pills containing narcotics and $2,940 in cash. On July 16, 2012, he was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison.

The remaining defendants pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances:

On August 9, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty sentenced Daniel Albert Amatuzio, age 24, of Duluth, to 46 months in prison. He pleaded guilty on December 20, 2011. In his plea agreement, Amatuzio admitted that in 2010, he conspired to distribute at least 300 Oxycontin pills. On October 20, 2010, during the execution of a search warrant at his residence, police seized 105 40-milligram Oxycontin pills from a toolbox, 27.7 grams of marijuana and $427 in cash from a dresser drawer, and 236.6 grams of marijuana from beneath the kitchen sink.

On August 7, 2012, four co-defendants were sentenced:

  • Kyle Richard Bergman, 23, also of Duluth, was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on December 2, 2011. In his plea agreement, Bergman admitted that between 2009 and September of 2011, he conspired to distribute Oxycontin and Opana pills. In 2010 he sold at least 1,000 Oxycontin pills, and between October of 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 1,000 40-3 milligram Opana pills. On October 6, 2010, he sold five Opana pills during a controlled purchase by law enforcement.
  • Jeffrey James Boshey, age 35, of Duluth, was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on December 20, 2011. In his plea agreement, Boshey admitted that in 2010, he distributed at least 500 80-milligram Oxycontin pills, and that between October of 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 1,500 40-milligram Opana pills. On four occasions in 2011, he sold Opana pills during controlled purchases by law enforcement. Boshey also admittedly continued to distribute controlled substances after being released, pretrial.
  • Brian Troy Eastlick, age 23, of Duluth, was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on November 18, 2011. In his plea agreement, Eastlick admitted that in 2010, he obtained at least 1,500 80-milligram Oxycontin pills for distribution, and that between 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 150 40-milligram Opana pills. On November 10, 2010, he sold Opana pills during a controlled purchase by law enforcement.
  • Zachary John Hamel, 21, of Duluth, was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on December 19, 2011. In his plea agreement, Hamel admitted that between October of 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed .5 grams of heroin and at least 1,500 40-milligram Opana pills. On three occasions, he sold Opana and heroin during controlled purchases by law enforcement.

On August 6, 2012, six co-defendants were sentenced:

  • Rindi Kay Koenen, age 20, of Duluth, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. She pleaded guilty on December 12, 2011. In her plea agreement, Koenen admitted facilitating illegal drug purchases by sending wire transfers to co-conspirators, including those in Detroit, Michigan. Her wire transfers to Detroit facilitated obtaining at least 250 80-milligram Oxycontin pills in 2010. Between October of 2010 and September of 2011, she distributed at least 200 40-milligram Opana pills.
  • Veronique Zsazsaantique Muckle, age 22, of Superior, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison. She pleaded guilty on February 2, 2012. In her plea agreement, Muckle admitted that between 2010 and September of 2011, she obtained and distributed at least 1,500 40-milligram Opana pills. She sold Opana pills to law enforcement during several controlled purchases.
  • Brian Keith Portis, age 22, of Superior, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on January 12, 2012. In his plea agreement, Portis admitted traveling to other cities to obtain the drugs and then delivering those drugs to street-level distributors. In 2010, he distributed at least 50 80-milligram Oxycontin pills, and between October of 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 50 40-milligram Opana pills.
  • Cletis Bernard Portis, age 31, also of Superior, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 200 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on January 23, 2012. In his plea agreement, Cletis Portis admitted that in 2010, he distributed or facilitated the distribution of at least 500 80-milligram Oxycontin pills, and that between October of 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 1,500 40-milligram Opana pills. Moreover, he recruited others to transport drugs from Detroit to the Twin Ports.
  • Eric Phillip Romero, age 44, of Duluth, was sentenced to 88 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on December 2, 2011. In his plea agreement, Romero admitted that between January and September of 2011, he distributed at least 1,000 40-milligram Opana pills. During several controlled purchases, he also sold Opana to law enforcement.
  • Nicolas Zane Worley, age 24, of Duluth, was sentenced to 32 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on January 20, 2012. In his plea agreement, Worley admitted that between 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 130 40-milligram Opana pills, and in 2010, he distributed at least 250 40-milligram Oxycontin pills. He also admitted that 105 40-milligram Oxycontin pills seized by police on October 20, 2010, at the residence of co-defendant Amatuzio actually belonged to him.

Other defendants sentenced:

On July 31, 2012, Caine Ramus Starks, age 29, of Duluth, was sentenced to 144 months in federal prison. On December 6, 2011, he pleaded guilty to the conspiracy as well as one count of use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. In his plea agreement, Starks admitted that between 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 250 80-milligram Oxycontin pills and at least 1,000 Opana pills. On several occasions, he also sold controlled substances and guns to law enforcement during controlled purchases.

On July 17, 2012, Ryan James Drickhamer, age 23, of Duluth, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on January 30, 2012. In his plea agreement, Drickhamer admitted that between October of 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 500 40-milligram Opana pills, and in 2010, he distributed at least 100 80-mililgram Oxycontin pills.

Also on July 17, 2012, Brad Rodney Christofferson, age 23, of Duluth, was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on November 17, 2011. In his plea agreement, Christofferson admitted that between 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 150 40-milligram Opana pills. On several occasions, he also sold Opana to law enforcement during controlled purchases.

On July 13, 2012, Rhonda Ann Davis, age 25, of Duluth, was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison. She pleaded guilty on November 22, 2011. In her plea agreement, Davis admitted that between 2010 and September of 2011, she distributed at least 500 40-milligram Opana pills and 10 grams of actual oxycodone.

On July 11, 2012, Justin Paul Johnson, age 21, of Duluth, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. He pleaded guilty on December 12, 2011. In his plea agreement, Johnson admitted that on December 15, 2010, he distributed two 40-milligram Opana pills. He also admitted selling at least 80 Opana pills during his participation in the conspiracy.

Other defendants awaiting sentencing and face a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison:

On December 20, 2011, Gordon Eugene Sharp, age 24, of Duluth, pleaded guilty. He is scheduled to be sentenced on September 12, 2012. In his plea agreement, Sharp admitted that he distributed at least 200 Opana pills during his participation in the conspiracy. In June of 2011, he sold Opana pills to law enforcement during a controlled purchase.

On January 19, 2012, Jacob Keith Nagle, age 24, of Duluth, pleaded guilty. He too is scheduled to be sentenced on September 12, 2012. In his plea agreement, Nagle admitted that in 2010 he distributed at least 500 80-milligram Oxycontin pills, and that between October of 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 1,000 40-milligram Opana pills.

On January 12, 2012, Jeffrey Lamont Liddell, age 28, of Superior, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty. No sentencing date has yet been scheduled. In his plea agreement, Liddell admitted that in 2010, he distributed at least 10,000 80-milligram Oxycontin pills, and that between October of 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 25,000 40-milligram Opana pills. He also admitted recruiting people to transport drugs from Detroit to the Twin Ports. Moreover, on several occasions, he sold Opana to law enforcement during controlled purchases.

On December 21, 2011, Daniel Allen Stenzel, age 24, of Duluth, pleaded guilty. No sentencing date has been scheduled. In his plea agreement, Stenzel admitted that between 2009 and 2010, he distributed at least 2,000 80-milligram Oxycontin pills, and that in 2011, he distributed at least 1,500 40-milligram Opana pills.

On December 8, 2011, Krystal Lynn Willis, age 26, of Esko, pleaded guilty. No sentencing date has been scheduled. In her plea agreement, Willis admitted that between 2010 and September of 2011, she transported at least 1,000 40-milligram Opana pills from Detroit to the Twin Ports. On August 25, 2011, while traveling back from Detroit, law enforcement stopped her and seized 284 Opana pills.

On November 22, 2011, Dillon Phillip Beyers, age 20, of Superior, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty. No sentencing date has been scheduled. In his plea agreement, Beyers admitted that between 2010 and September of 2011, he distributed at least 1,500 40-milligram Opana pills.

On November 18, 2011, Angelique Michelle Vos, age 23, of Superior, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty. No sentencing date has been scheduled. In her plea agreement, Vos admitted that in 2010, she distributed at least 2,000 80-milligram Oxycontin pills, and between October of 2010 and September of 2011, she distributed at least 5,000 40-milligram Opana pills. Furthermore, 6 from 2009 through September of 2011, she facilitated the transportation of drugs from Detroit to the Twin Ports. She also sent wire transfers for the purchase the drugs.

On November 3, 2011, Ian Philip Stauber, age 24, of Hermantown, pleaded guilty. No sentencing date has been scheduled. In his plea agreement, Stauber admitted that on numerous occasions, he sold Opana pills to law enforcement during controlled purchases. During the March 2, 2011, execution of a search warrant at Stauber's Duluth residence, police seized 341 Opana pills and $3,005 in cash.

This case was the result of an investigation by the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, the Duluth Police Department, the Hermantown Police Department and the U.S. ATF. It was prosecuted and tried by Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen A. Slaughter.

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