KETCHIKAN - Six of 26 people indicted on charges of operating a drug distribution network that stretched from California to Alaska appeared at a hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Ketchikan.
Nathan Griffin, Olive Karels, Michal Lichtwald, David Markle, Patricia Shields and Tara Stuart were arrested in Ketchikan on Monday and charged with conspiracy. Griffin and Karels also are charged with possession with intent to distribute.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Mary Guss determined that the six qualified to be represented by public defenders. Additional hearings are scheduled for Friday at the U.S. District Court in Anchorage.
As of Tuesday, 19 of the 26 people named in the Dec. 18 federal indictment were in custody, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephan A. Collins.
"The arrests stem from an investigation that's been under way for between 18 months and two years," Collins said.
Ketchikan Police Chief Grant Sirevog said the investigation was a joint local, state and federal operation.
A 28-page indictment describes efforts to obtain heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and Ecstasy from sources in the Lower 48 for distribution in Ketchikan, Craig, Klawock, Juneau, Anchorage and other areas. The sale of the controlled substances generated large sums of cash, part of which was used to acquire more controlled substances and part taken as profit, according to the indictment.
The indictment lists more than $550,000 in drug trafficking proceeds that passed through various bank accounts. Seventeen of the 139 counts listed in the indictment are charges of money laundering.
None of the six Ketchikan defendants faces money-laundering charges.
Griffin and Karels were charged with obtaining methamphetamine in 2002 for distribution in Craig and Ketchikan.
Lichtwald was accused of traveling with another person from California to Alaska in 2002 on commercial airlines with cocaine and methamphetamine hidden in modified men's underwear. The indictment said the drugs were for distribution in Alaska.
Markle is charged with traveling in California, Washington and Alaska in 2002 to get cocaine and methamphetamine for distribution in Ketchikan. He is accused of carrying drugs concealed in modified men's underwear.
Stuart is accused of transporting cocaine and methamphetamine between California, Washington and Alaska for distribution in Alaska.
Shields is accused of wiring drug proceeds to others associated with the conspiracy.