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Conspirators in Sacramento-to-Juneau oxy ring sentenced in federal court

Posted: August 2, 2012 - 12:05am
SallyJean Maki, 26, walks toward the federal courtroom in Juneau with her lawyer, Burke Wonnell, on Friday for sentencing on charges of laundering money as part of a Sacramento-to-Juneau oxycodone drug ring conspiracy.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
SallyJean Maki, 26, walks toward the federal courtroom in Juneau with her lawyer, Burke Wonnell, on Friday for sentencing on charges of laundering money as part of a Sacramento-to-Juneau oxycodone drug ring conspiracy.

A Juneau couple, two local residents and a defendant from Sacramento were sentenced for their role in a Sacramento-to-Juneau oxycodone ring conspiracy Friday in federal court.

U.S. Magistrate Timothy Burgess told SallyJean Maki, 27, of Juneau, that she was getting a break when he imposed 11 months on home confinement followed by three years of probation for laundering drug money.

“You got a big, big opportunity in this case,” Burgess said. “I hope you don’t squander it. ... I don’t think you’re going to get another opportunity like this again.”

Inside the courtroom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt didn’t make any sentencing comments during open court. But after the hearing, he said in an interview that Maki was just one of “many, many” people involved in the ongoing scheme to bring oxycodone to Juneau.

“She was just a cog in a wheel,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the oxy ring was something they had long suspected, but was first discovered around 2007. About 40 people have been implicated and prosecuted since that time, he said.

The amount and worth of the drugs that have been trafficked is unknown, but Schmidt estimated that it involved “millions and millions” of dollars.

The oxycodone originated from “down south,” Schmidt said, speculating that people were selling their prescriptions, or making fake prescriptions.

In the Maki case, SallyJean was one of six defendants indicted by a federal grand jury in October 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. The other five defendants were from Sacramento.

Maki was also charged with money laundering, to which she pleaded guilty in February. She admitted to depositing drug money into a True North Federal Credit Union account owned by one of the drug ring leaders, Milan Thomas. Thomas had claimed them as business receipts for his fraudulent business front called Southeast Alaska Tour Company, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Maki deposited about $25,000 of drug money into Thomas’ account in Juneau between July 2010 and August 2011.

Court records show the amount of cash deposits from drug money that passed through three of the bank accounts held by the group totaled a little over $1 million. Authorities estimate that at least some 11,000 pills were sold, according to court records.

Schmidt wrote in a sentencing memo that while Maki’s crimes were serious, he also took into consideration her youth, lack of criminal history and “what appears to be a recent serious effort by Ms. Maki’s (sic) to turn her life around.”

Maki’s attorney T. Burke Wonnell said she already completed three months at the Akeela House and then voluntarily remained there for an additional month.

Maki’s husband, Brent Maki, 33, was also implicated and indicted in February on the same drug conspiracy and money laundering charges as his wife.

On Friday, Burgess sentenced him to serve 36 months in prison for the two counts, saying it was “hard to underestimate the seriousness” of the crimes despite the fact he has taken responsibility for his actions.

Brent Maki’s attorney David Nesbett told the judge that Brent became addicted to oxycodone after back surgery. He was consuming about 12 pills a day, Nesbett said, and “completely lost sight” of his family, his biggest priority.

“He became very addicted, and he acknowledges that,” Nesbett said.

Brent Maki apologized to the judge saying, “I know I made a mistake, that’s a given. I do take responsibility. My main goal (moving forward) is to get back to my family.”

The judge noted that there was a “tremendous amount” of drugs involved in the scheme.

“You’d be upset if someone was supplying stuff like this to your children,” Burgess said.

Another Juneau resident, who was indicted at the same time as Brent Maki, was also sentenced by Burgess Friday: Jason Rivera, 26, who worked at a Juneau bank. Burgess imposed 60 months for him as well as 600 hours of community work service, saying he was taking a chance that Rivera could succeed in life.

“I think it’s worth a chance,” the judge said, but then added, “I’m not going to lose a moment of sleep putting you in jail if you don’t follow through.”

Schmidt said Rivera was both an addict and a dealer.

Michael Travis Miller, 32, of Juneau, was sentenced Friday to serve 28 months in federal prison. Miller told the judge he has spent the past 25 months sober, which felt good after being “strung out on oxy.”

“I will never let myself go down that road again,” Miller said.

According to a criminal complaint, Miller was arrested after a courier was caught trying to transport oxycodone pills on Alaska Airlines from Sacramento to Juneau in June 2010. The ‘mule’ told authorities the pills were to be delivered to a “Chris” in Juneau, who was later identified as Miller. Authorities conducted a controlled delivery and Miller picked up the drugs with an accomplice from the Juneau airport, according to the complaint.

One defendant from Sacramento was also sentenced — Marquis Rene Thomas, 31.

Thomas received the lightest sentence — five years of probation — because of mental health issues that prosecutors and the defense agreed Milan Thomas, a longtime family friend of his, took advantage of. He was described by prosecutors as being a victim.

Prosecutors said Thomas was caught in Seattle en route to Juneau with 481 pills that would have been distributed in the community.

Thomas in court told the judge he was an aspiring singer and musician, and the judge replied sincerely that he wants to see Thomas on TV, not in a courtroom.

Milan Thomas was arrested for his role in the conspiracy in February. He changed his plea in May and is scheduled to be sentenced in Juneau before Burgess in December.

Schmidt said the Drug Enforcement Agency, the IRS Criminal Investigation unit, Port of Seattle Police Department and the Juneau Police Department drug unit investigated the cases.

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

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