Couple Pleads Guilty In Pharmacy And Drug Distribution Scheme
NOV 15 -- MICHAEL HINKLE, 39, and JENIFER HINKLE, 34, of Marysville, Washington pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle in connection with a scheme to burglarize pharmacies in the Northwest and sell the prescription narcotics in the State of Washington for thousands of dollars. MICHAEL HINKLE pleaded guilty to Pharmacy Burglary in connection with the April 13, 2006, burglary of a Rite Aid Pharmacy in Pendleton, Oregon. JENIFER HINKLE pleaded guilty to the Distribution of Controlled Substances, including oxycodone and fentanyl, stolen during pharmacy burglaries.
According to court documents, the HINKLEs worked with others involved in pharmacy burglaries to steal and distribute narcotics. In the Pendleton burglary, MICHAEL HINKLE and another man traveled from Marysville to Oregon and scouted the pharmacy. MICHAEL HINKLE purchased a tarp and bolt cutters. After the store closed, the men covered the telephone junction box outside the pharmacy with the tarp and then cut the telephone lines to the store so that the burglar alarm would not remotely activate and alert authorities. The men then broke into the store and stole more than $40,000 worth of Schedule II and Schedule III prescription drugs, including stocks of powerful and addictive narcotics, such as oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, and hydrocodone. The drugs were brought back to the Marysville area and distributed.
Pharmacy burglaries have skyrocketed in Washington and the Pacific Northwest over the last few years. In 2002, there were only three night break in burglaries in Washington pharmacies. In 2005, by contrast, there were 48 night pharmacy burglaries ? the most in the nation. Authorities believe the majority of these burglaries are connected to an organized criminal ring operating from the State of Washington.
Selling the stolen drugs can net a profit of up to $150,000 per burglary. High strength oxycodone can sell for as much at $80 per pill, fentanyl patches (another narcotic pain medication) can sell for $50 per patch. These drugs are then consumed by addicts and others, without a valid prescription, posing harm to themselves and society in general.
“Addressing the problem of the diversion and abuse of controlled pharmaceuticals is one of the top priorities of the Drug Enforcement Administration,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Rodney Benson. “Pharmacy burglaries are just one way in which these normally legal drugs are being diverted for illegal use. The diversion of these drugs through burglaries, doctor shopping, improper prescribing, rogue internet pharmacies and medicine cabinet sharing, is fueling a crisis among young Americans whose abuse of such prescription drugs is ahead of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine consumption.”
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 6 million Americans are currently abusing controlled substance prescription drugs ? that is more than the number abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined. Researchers at the Center for Disease Control report that opiate prescription pain killers cause more overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin.
Pharmacy Burglary is a federal crime punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Distribution of a Controlled Substance is punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.
As part of his plea agreement, MICHAEL HINKLE agreed to pay restitution to the pharmacy for damage done to the pharmacy during the burglary and for the loss sustained by the pharmacy and its insurer due to the drugs taken.
JENIFER HINKLE is scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District on February 23, 2007. MICHAEL HINKLE is scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court on March 9, 2007.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NW HIDTA), the Pendleton Oregon Police Department and the Monroe Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ronald J. Friedman.
For additional information please contact Jeffrey Eig, Public Information Officer for the Drug Enforcement Administration, at (206) 553-1411.