David Coogan, 24, is scheduled to go to trial later this month on charges that he tried to smuggle a large amount of the prescription painkiller OxyContin into Juneau.
OxyContin has become an increasingly popular drug in Juneau, especially among teens, and is becoming more expensive as users seek out the drug, according to authorities.
"Pure supply and demand," said Juneau Police Sgt. Dave Campbell.
Campbell said users pay by the milligram, and the going rate for an 80 mg pill is $180.
The prosecution of Coogan, who was charged in January of this year for his alleged smuggling attempt in 2006, is an example of police efforts to go after drug dealers who use others to smuggle in drugs, Campbell said.
According to statements made by police and the district attorney's office in court records, Coogan had his friend carry OxyContin pills in his backpack on a flight from Seattle to Juneau in April of 2006.
Agents from a special drug task force unit, who had been told by police informants that Coogan had previously brought cocaine and OxyContin into Juneau and was a "source" of the prescription drug in town, met Coogan and his friend when they arrived, court records show.
They found two condoms filled with 488 40 mg OxyContin pills in Coogan's friend's backpack, according to court records.
Coogan's friend, Steven Hofferbert, pleaded guilty in 2007 to a drug charge and was sentenced to spend six months in prison.
Reached by phone Wednesday in Washington state, Hofferbert, 26, said he thought the purpose of the 2006 trip was an interview with Coogan's father for a job with the family construction company.
Coogan Construction is one of Juneau's biggest construction firms and has built a number of public works projects around town.
Hofferbert said he knew he was carrying some drugs for Coogan, but thought it was a small amount for Coogan's personal use. Hofferbert said he was surprised when police told him how many pills were found in his backpack.
Hofferbert said he later found out there had been no pre-arranged job interview and the sole purpose of the trip was for him to smuggle drugs for Coogan.
"He used me, so it kind of sucked," Hofferbert said, adding that ultimately the experience was good for him. "I grew up a lot," he said.
Hofferbert added that he hadn't spoken to Coogan since the day they were stopped at the airport and is not looking forward to testifying as a subpoenaed witness in Coogan's trial.
Coogan's lawyer, Louis Menendez, said his client had no comment about the case. In court Wednesday, Menendez pointed out that authorities never found drugs on Coogan.
Campbell said it's tougher to make a case against someone when they aren't caught with drugs in their possession, but the police department is determined "to make the case against the people who need to be held responsible."
Campbell said the recent conviction of Aaron Washington and Vonnie Williams, two drug dealers who used drug mules to smuggle drugs for them, show that drug dealers who try to isolate themselves from the risks of drug smuggling can still be successfully prosecuted.
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