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Alleged drug ring conspirator makes first court appearance

SallyJean Maki faces charges related to oxy distribution, money laundering

Posted: December 1, 2011 - 1:10am

A Juneau woman was arrested by U.S. Marshals Tuesday and appeared in federal court Wednesday for allegedly playing a role in a oxycodone drug conspiracy and money laundering case.

SallyJean Maki, who grew up in Haines and Sitka and has lived in Juneau since 2004, was crying too hard to enter a not guilty plea during her arraignment Wednesday. U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Longenbaugh entered the plea on her behalf at the request of federal public defender Sue Ellen Tatter, who was assigned to be Maki’s lawyer but acted instead as a friend of the court since a conflict with one of her clients precluded her from acting as Maki’s counsel.

“There are serious charges that have been brought against you,” Longenbaguh told Maki.

Maki was one of six defendants indicted by a federal grand jury last month on one count of drug conspiracy for knowingly and intentionally conspiring with each other to distribute oxycodone, a violation of U.S. law that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Maki, along with two other defendants, was also charged with one count of money laundering conspiracy. The count alleges she knowingly conducted a financial transaction through True North Federal Credit Union when the transaction involved the proceeds of an unlawful activity, and knowing that such transaction was designed to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the drug money. That charge also has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and a $500,000 fine, or twice the amount laundered, whichever is greater.

Other defendants listed in the case were charged with making illegal transactions through Wells Fargo Bank, MoneyGram and Western Union. They are Milan Thomas, Hilary Herndon, Brenna Hauenstein, Ariana Dixon and Jennifer McGrath.

It is not certain how many of the defendants live in Juneau, but some are from Sacramento, Calif., said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt.

Schmidt said by phone from Sacramento that multiple law enforcement agencies in Juneau, Tacoma, Wash. and Seattle have been a investigating the six defendants for some time.

“This has been a long-time investigation, and she’s been identified as one of the co-conspirators in the distribution of oxycodone,” he said.

The investigation was headed by the drug task force at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, he said, with the Internal Revenue Service and Drug Enforcement Agency assisting. The Juneau Police Department assisted U.S. Marshals with the arrest earlier this week, he said.

Maki is being held at Lemon Creek Correctional Center without bail until her detention and bail hearing, which is scheduled for Monday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Bradley, who was filling in for Schmidt since he was out of town, said the government has a right to hold a person for three days if they are being charged with a crime that has a sentence of more than 10 years, since they are a presumed flight risk, may present danger to the public or may conduct further criminal conduct.

Longenbaugh agreed, but indicated Maki is likely to be released with strict conditions following the three-day detention period after Tatter argued Maki does not pose either a flight risk or danger to the public.

“In this rare instance, I think that Ms. Tatter has the better argument that in fact what would benefit you and society most at this point is for you, in this court’s view, to get an assessment, an addiction and drug abuse assessment, and follow whatever plan they come up with to have frequent drug tests and to obey all laws while you’re released,” Longenbaugh told Maki. “This is going to be a tough time for you, but I think that you can do it, and get yourself clean and sober.”

Maki admitted to recent marijuana and methamphetamine use in the pretrial sentencing report, Tatter said.

Maki’s parents fought back tears in the courtroom during the hearing, and after the proceedings expressed shock and surprise their daughter was charged. Maki’s mother, whose name was not given, said she had suspected her daughter used drugs, but “not to that magnitude, no.”

Maki, who is married with a young child, worked for Juneau Youth Services until May of 2009 and had collected unemployment benefits until the beginning of this year.

Longenbaugh found Maki qualified for a court-appointed lawyer, and Tatter said she obtained lawyer T. Burke Wonnell to represent Maki in the case.

A two-day trial is scheduled to take place on Jan. 31, 2012.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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