A local businesswoman has been convicted of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine in Juneau, and admitted the government has the right to seek forfeiture of one of her shops that used drug trafficking money to operate.
Gema G. Thomas, 52, the owner of a downtown bead shop and a downtown bridal shop, appeared in U.S. District Court in Juneau’s Federal Building on Tuesday and changed her plea to guilty.
Thomas admitted to conspiring with suppliers in Washington and another defendant from Juneau to distribute about 158 grams of methamphetamine from July 3 to July 7 of this year.
Thomas was originally charged by federal prosecutors via felony information with one single count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, a felony.
She was arrested Oct. 5 on an arrest warrant after an investigation by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Alaska State Troopers, U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Juneau Police Drug Metro Unit.
Thomas pleaded guilty as charged on Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Timothy Burgess. In exchange for her plea, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt, who is prosecuting the case, agreed not to prosecute her on any other charges related to the offense.
Thomas is facing a minimum of 10 years in prison for her role in the conspiracy. Sentencing is scheduled for March. Recommended sentences were not a part of the plea deal.
According to the factual basis outlined by Schmidt in a written plea agreement, Thomas contacted drug dealers in Washington sometime before July 3 and ordered six ounces of methamphetamine for an agreed price of about $6,000.
Thomas paid that amount by depositing cash into one of their bank accounts, and she received the drugs on July 7 via U.S. Postal Service Express Mail. The package was addressed to one of her businesses, Peer Amid Beads, 130 Front Street.
Thomas took the package to her residence on Moraine Way, opened it and left the drugs in her garage to be picked up by Darrell W. Dawson, 44, who was arrested and charged with the same federal crime as Thomas.
Thomas admitted that Dawson arrived at her house on a motorcycle to pick the drugs up. Schmidt said at the time of Dawson’s arrest, Dawson was found to be in possession of an additional 4.8 grams of methamphetamine, which was previously supplied by Thomas from a prior package containing an additional six ounces of methamphetamine.
The plea agreement states Dawson then sold the methamphetamine “fronted” by Thomas, and he paid Thomas $15,000 in drug proceeds as payment for the previous six ounces.
Thomas admitted to using the drug proceeds from drug trafficking to pay for her business operating costs and inventory for Bridal Gowns, Formal Wear, and Tuxedo Rentals, located at 213 Seward Street.
Thomas agreed not to contest forfeiture of the business, which she co-owns with her husband, Michael Paul Thomas.
Dawson also appeared in federal court on Tuesday before Burgess. He was scheduled to be sentenced, but his sentencing was postponed at the last minute until January.
Dawson was originally charged by the state of Alaska on drug-related felony offenses, but those charges were dismissed by the district attorney as the federal case took hold.
Dawson was indicted by a federal grand jury in July on the same charge as Thomas, but for conspiring from January 2011 to July 7, 2012.
He pleaded guilty in September, but only to conspiring from July 3 to 7, same as Thomas.
Thomas was never indicted since she waived her right to be prosecuted by indictment, and consented to being prosecuted via felony information.
The maximum penalties for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine are a minimum of 10 years to life in prison; a minimum of five years of supervised release; and a maximum of a $10 million fine.
The government is also seeking forfeiture of Dawson’s motorcycle, which he agreed not to contest.
Thomas is represented by attorney Julie Willoughby, and Dawson is represented by James Barrett.
The names of the Washington conspirators were not released.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at email@example.com.