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Major UPDATE On The Opioid CRISIS

OPIOID CRISIS UPDATE

Flurry of activity in federal prosecutions against heroin, fentanyl, and other opioid traffickers in South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – United States Attorney Ron Parsons today announced additional progress made in the past six weeks by law enforcement in the fight against opioids.  The epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction is, by now, distressingly familiar.  In 2017 alone, over 70,000 people in the United States suffered a fatal overdose and countless others suffered nonfatal overdoses because they were revived by first responders using Narcan.  To combat this crisis, the Department of Justice is dedicating tremendous resources to reduce the supply of illicit opioids (primarily heroin and fentanyl).

“Federal, state, local, and tribal task force officers are working these cases hard in every corner of the state,” said U.S. Attorney Parsons.  “And we’re not going to let up.  We’re going to hammer the traffickers who are dealing these poisons with everything we’ve got.”

The following federal criminal investigations, involving at least 19 defendants, have resulted in indictments, arraignments, guilty pleas, or prison sentences in opioid-related prosecutions by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota since the beginning of October 2018.

Indictments

Stuart Siecke, Dean Bourn, and Deon Hillard On October 10, 2018, Stuart Harlon Siecke (age 27) of Worthing, SD, Dean Joseph Bourn (age 36) of Vermillion, SD, and Deon Lee Hillard (age 30) of Minneapolis, MN, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Sioux Falls for Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance.  The three men are alleged to be part of a fentanyl distribution ring stretching from Minneapolis to Yankton, SD.  Hillard’s federal indictment came while he was released on bond after being charged in Minnesota state court for causing a fentanyl overdose death.  These charges are merely accusations and Siecke, Bourn, and Hillard are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Maurice Cathey and Corrod Phillips.  On October 10, 2018, a superseding indictment was filed against Maurice Bellafonta Cathey, also known as “Short,” (age 38) of Sioux Falls, SD, and Corrod Leon Phillips (age 27) of Sioux Falls, SD, for Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, namely heroin.  Cathey also was charged with one count of Distribution of a Controlled Substance Resulting in Death and two counts of Distribution Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury.  In addition, Phillips was charged with two counts of Distribution Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury.  The defendants are alleged to have been heroin dealers responsible for numerous overdoses in the Sioux Falls area.  A jury trial before U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier is set to begin on January 29, 2019.  These charges are merely accusations and Cathey and Phillips are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Sarah Bailey, a/k/a/ Sarah Johnson and Justin Johnson.  On October 23, 2018, a superseding indictment was filed against Sarah Bailey, also known as Sarah Johnson (age 40) and Justin Johnson (age 37), both of Rapid City, SD, charging them with Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, namely heroin.  Bailey also was charged with Distribution of a Controlled Substance Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Distribution of a Controlled Substance to a Person under Age 21.  In addition, Justin Johnson was charged with two counts of Distribution of a Controlled Substance.  It is alleged that these defendants were dealing heroin in Rapid City, and that Bailey provided the heroin that caused the overdose of a 15-year-old boy.  These charges are merely accusations and Bailey and Johnson are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Alyssa Tuttle.  Alyssa Tuttle (age 28) of Peever, SD, was indicted by a federal grand jury for Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud on September 5, 2018.  On November 1, 2018, she was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge William D. Gerdes and pleaded not guilty to the Indictment.  It is alleged that on or about February 2, 2018, Tuttle knowingly and intentionally acquired and obtained hydrocodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, and subterfuge in Watertown, SD.  The charge is merely an accusation and Tuttle is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Darcy Hoff and Michael Cooper.  Michael Wayne Cooper (age 57) of Sioux Falls, SD and Darcy Ranee Hoff (age 43) of Sioux Falls, SD, were indicted by a federal grand jury on November 6, 2018, for Distribution of a Controlled Substance Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury.  It is alleged that these defendants were dealing fentanyl that resulted in the overdose of a victim in Sioux Falls.  Hoff was arraigned on November 20, 2018, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Veronica L. Duffy and pleaded not guilty to the indictment.  Hoff was ordered to be detained and remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals.  Cooper is still at large and actively sought by federal authorities.  He was last known to reside in Sioux Falls but has strong ties to the Chicago area, as well as Louisiana.  Anyone with information about Cooper’s whereabouts can contact the U.S. Marshal Service at (605) 330-4356 or by email at [email protected].  A photograph of Michael Wayne Cooper accompanies this release.

Michael Cooper

Guilty Pleas

Andy Ontiveros.  On October 16, 2018, Andy Ontiveros (age 39) of South Gate, CA, pleaded guilty in federal court to Possession with Intent to Distribute 400 grams or more of a substance containing fentanyl.  On or about May 28, 2018, Ontiveros was inside his parked vehicle on the shoulder of I-29 in Minnehaha County, SD.  A Deputy with the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office approached and requested assistance from the South Dakota Highway Patrol.  Ontiveros gave consent for the officers to search the vehicle.  The search uncovered 264 grams of heroin and 993 grams of fentanyl hidden inside the vehicle.  This is believed to be the largest seizure of both heroin and powdered fentanyl in South Dakota history.  Ontiveros has admitted that he intended to distribute the substances both in South Dakota and elsewhere.  Sentencing is scheduled for January 14, 2018 before Judge Schreier.  The penalty is a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and maximum sentence of life, and/or $10 million dollar fine, or both.  The term of supervised release is a minimum of 5 years and maximum of life.

Shania Hofer.   On October 22, 2018, Shania Rose Hofer (age 21) of Sioux Falls, SD, pleaded guilty to Distribution of a Controlled Substance Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury.  On or about April 23, 2018, Hofer knowingly and intentionally distributed a mixture and substance containing heroin to an individual in Sioux Falls.  Later that day, the person used the heroin sold by Hofer and was found unconscious.  First responders were unable to find the victim’s pulse and observed that he was not breathing.  They began to perform CPR and administered two doses of Narcan before he was revived.  While at the scene, law enforcement collected a syringe found next to the victim that tested positive for both heroin and fentanyl.  But for the use of the heroin provided by Hofer, the victim would not have stopped breathing, which caused a substantial risk of death.  Sentencing is scheduled before Judge Schreier on January 4, 2019.  Hofer faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in federal prison up to life, a $1 million fine, or both, and a term of supervised release from three years to life.

Cory Poelstra.  On October 31, 2018, Cory Michael Poelstra (age 29) of Yankton, SD, appeared before Judge Schreier and pleaded guilty to a Superseding Information that charged him with Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance, namely fentanyl.  During his involvement in the conspiracy, Poelstra ordered fentanyl from the “Dark Web” and had it shipped to Yankton.  He then sold fentanyl to various customers in South Dakota.  He also was aware that some of his fentanyl customers were reselling it to others.  Sentencing is scheduled before Judge Schreier for January 28, 2019.  Poelstra faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, a $1 million fine, or both, and a term of supervised release.

Troy Adolfson.  On November 14, 2018, Troy Edward Adolfson (age 47), now of Pella, IA, pleaded guilty to Distribution of a Controlled Substance in violation of federal law.  Between January 9 and April 17, 2017, Adolfson, then a licensed physician in Aberdeen, SD, illegally distributed oxycodone to others by writing prescriptions for oxycodone pills to a coworker, who would get the prescriptions filled and give Adolfson the pills.  Adolfson would give the coworker some of the pills and cash for getting the prescription filled.  Adolfson made the same arrangement with two other individuals, and estimates he illegally prescribed 1,400 pills of oxycodone in this manner.  Sentencing is scheduled before U.S. District Judge Charles B. Kornmann on May 13, 2019.  Adolfson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, a $1 million fine, or both, and a term of supervised release.

Devlin Tommeraasen.  On November 16, 2018, Devlin Tommeraasen (age 23) of Harrisburg, SD, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance.  As part of his involvement in the conspiracy, Tommeraasen purchased heroin from co-conspirators and sold it in the Sioux Falls area.  He accompanied a co-conspirator on a trip from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis and back to purchase heroin for distribution in the Sioux Falls area.  Sentencing is scheduled before Judge Schreier for February 4, 2019.    Tommeraasen faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine, or both, and a term of supervised release.

Federal Prison Sentences

Tyler Woodraska, Trevor Harden, Rodney Rohrbach, Sr., Rodney Rohrbach, Jr.  Four South Dakota fentanyl dealers convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance have been sentenced by Judge Schreier, the most recent on October 15, 2018.  Tyler Wayne Woodraska (age 25) of Oacoma, SD, was sentenced on October 15, 2018, to 63 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release.  Trevor Robert Harden (age 20) of Chamberlain, SD, was sentenced on April 30, 2018, to 108 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release.  Rodney Scott Rohrbach, Sr., a/k/a “Scott” (age 51) of Chamberlain was sentenced on August 20, 2018, to 84 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release.  Rodney Scott Rohrbach, Jr., a/k/a “Bubba” (age 26) of Chamberlain was sentenced on July 30, 2018, to 97 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release.  The convictions stem from incidents ending on or about June 19, 2017, when the Defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with others to acquire fentanyl and cyclopropylfentanyl, both Schedule II controlled substances, using the “Dark Web” and distribute it in South Dakota.  Woodraska, Harden, Rohrbach, Sr., and Rohrbach, Jr. were immediately turned over to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

All of these recent developments in the District of South Dakota have occurred as the Drug Enforcement Administration released its 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, which outlines the threats posed to the United States by domestic and international drug trafficking and the abuse of illicit drugs.

“Hot off the presses, the new DEA threat assessment underscores the broad scope and severe magnitude of the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Parsons.  “It represents the sum of all the data and critical intelligence from our law enforcement partners gathered over the past year.  It highlights the need to use every tool at our disposal in our collective mission to defeat this horrific and deadly epidemic.”

Key findings in the report include:

  • Controlled prescription drugs remain responsible for the largest number of overdose deaths of any illicit drug class since 2001.  These drugs are the second most commonly abused substance.  Traffickers are now disguising other opioids as controlled prescription drugs to gain access to this market.
  • Heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths almost doubled between 2013 and 2016. This has been exacerbated by the increased adulteration of heroin with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.  Heroin now available in U.S. markets is primarily sourced from Mexico, where opium poppy cultivation and heroin production have both increased significantly in recent years.
  • Of all opioids, the abuse of illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids has led to the greatest number of deaths in the United States.  Fentanyl is increasingly available in the form of counterfeit prescription pills marketed for illicit street sales, and also sold by traffickers on its own, without the presence of other drugs.
    The 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment can be accessed here.

The cases listed above are being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Unified Narcotics Enforcement Team (UNET), U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services OIG/OI, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), South Dakota Highway Patrol, Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office, Sioux Falls Police Department, Yankton Police Department, Minneapolis Police Department, and the Sioux Falls Area Drug Task Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Haak, Jennifer Mammenga, Benjamin Patterson and Tamara Nash are prosecuting the cases.

SOURCE- THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (DOJ)

U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Dakota

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