Planes, pills and piles of cash

Spokane OxyContin bust reads like Hollywood movie

Planes, pills and piles of cash

SPOKANE, Wash. - Newly unsealed court documents are revealing new details of a massive drug ring busted in Spokane last year that shows how a group of California gangsters trafficked thousands of OxyContin pills into Spokane every few days on commercial flights.

The Spokane Regional Drug Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Agency executed a series of raids in Spokane in February 2013. At the time, federal prosecutors had the court records sealed, so the only information released was that the drug ring involved OxyContin and that 41 people were arrested. The raid also led to the arrest of Sally Blakely Guthrie, who owns Flamin' Joe's restaurant.

This week, the ringleader of the group pleaded guilty to two federal charges. With that plea, many of the court records were made public. Federal prosecutors say Richard Haynes, aka "Tiny Schoolie," was the leader of the trafficking organization and part of the Eight Trey Gangster Crips, a street gang operating in Spokane and Los Angeles.

According to court documents, the group would obtain OxyContin from "suspect doctors and/or medical staff who prescribe medications for profit; suspect pharmacists and/or pharmacies who fill the illegally obtained prescriptions for profit; and numerous elderly and/or medically disabled people who help obtain the prescription drugs for profit."

Once the drugs were obtained, the organization found women to serve as couriers, who would "body pack" 2,000 OxyContin pills and travel on commercial planes from L.A. to Spokane. When they arrived, they were distributed to other gang members and their associations.

"The DEA estimates that possibly as much as 10,000 illegal OxyContin pills [were] transported to, distributed in Spokane every week," according to court documents.

Court documents also said, "The 30 mg OxyContin, which were illegally acquired in Los Angeles, California, for approximately $10-$12 per pill, were sold in Spokane for $20-$22 per pill. The cash proceeds from Spokane-area OxyContin sales, often in excess of $100,000 per shipment, were then transported back to Los Angeles, hidden in the checked baggage of the same or different female couriers."

Once Haynes was identified as the leader/organizer of the group, the DEA obtained authorization to wiretap and intercept communications from his phones. Court documents show that in a four-month period in 2012, agents intercepted 4,100 "pertinent, drug trafficking-related conversations."  Investigators used those conversations to determine flight times and followed couriers from the airport to hotels in Spokane.

In August 2012, investigators used information gleaned from those phone calls to obtain a "covert search warrant" for a black and pink zebra-striped suitcase that one of the female couriers was bringing on a flight from California to Spokane. The DEA found "what appeared to be 73 rubber band-wrapped bundles of $1,000." The DEA put the cash back in the suitcase and contacted investigators in Los Angeles. They tracked the suitcase from the airport to a "suspected money stash house/apartment" and watched it being taken inside.

The DEA searched bags at the airport on multiple occasions. In one case, they searched a checked bag in Spokane and seized $102,270 and 200 OxyContin pills.

On Feb. 28, 2013, the DEA executed that series of search warrants, collecting guns, drugs and other evidence and arresting 41 people.

As part of his plea signed Monday in federal court, Haynes acknowledges that the U.S. has enough evidence to prove the conspiracy and that his organization brought 2,000-3,000 OxyContin pills from LA to Spokane every two-three days. Haynes will be sentenced in September and faces more than 20 years in prison on each count.

Guthrie pleaded guilty to a much lesser charge of making a false statement. The United States agreed to defer her prosecution, provided she follows strict guidelines and cooperates with the investigation. She also agreed to forfeit $6,000 seized in the investigation.