Articles Posted in Drug Charges

A corrupt Detroit police officer has been recently sent to prison by a federal judge. This police officer was one of fourteen co-defendants in a wide ranging and long-lasting illegal drug trafficking ring. This drug trafficking ring was estimated to have lasted for at least five years before they were indicted. The officers involved used their positions as police officers to help facilitate the sale of heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl. The officer in this case specifically was involved in the sale of fentanyl. The amount listed in the indictment stated that the officer was found in possession of 400 or more grams of fentanyl. white-round-pills-755945-m-300x250

Case History

Various amounts of drugs and money were found in the possession of many of these defendants. One defendant was found with six kilograms of cocaine in his possession. Another defendant was found with nearly one kilogram of heroin and just under 1/3 of a kilogram of fentanyl. Part of their conspiracy was to transport drugs via commercial airlines. They would have couriers take luggage to the airport, check their bags for the flight, but intentionally miss the flight. This would send the luggage to the destination where another courier would pick up the luggage. This technique is called a “check and miss.” The main officer in this case was said to be in a conspiracy with the others, supplying sensitive law enforcement information in furtherance of the crime. He was even allegedly paid $20,000 to stage a fake traffic stop of an associate to make their drug supplier believe that the cops had busted their drugs and money.

What Is Fentanyl And Why Is It Being Smuggled Into The United States? iStock_000002709890_Large-2-300x200

Fentanyl is an opioid that was originally intended to be used as a painkiller and in conjunction with other drugs for anesthesia. Fentanyl was approved for common medical use in the United States in 1968. As of 2017, fentanyl was the most commonly used synthetic opioid in the medical world. Now fentanyl is also used a recreational drug, often mixed with heroin or cocaine. As a painkiller, fentanyl is more than 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl and its “structural analogs” are classified as Schedule II drugs by the federal government. This means that fentanyl has medical usefulness, but also a high potential for physical and psychological dependency and abuse. Structural analogs are synthetically made designer drugs that have a very similar scientific structure to the original but have a difference as to avoid criminal laws. Fentanyl has a handful of structural analogs that have also been declared illegal under state and federal law. The size of a few grains of salt of fentanyl could be a deadly dose to the user. It is an extremely powerful drug.

Fentanyl is now being seized at the United States/ Canada border in Detroit at alarming rates. Statistics show that from 2015-17 there was just over one-half pound of fentanyl seized in that three-year period. In 2018 alone that number nearly tripled to almost a pound and a half. As of 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized nearly 10.5 pounds of fentanyl. That is enough to kill nearly 1.5 million people. Nationally the rate of fentanyl seized today is 35 times what it was back in 2015. The recreational demand for fentanyl is at an all-time high. Its potency and addictiveness are what could continue to increase this frightening trend.

In Michigan, one of the components of criminal prosecutions, especially related to drug charges, is civil forfeiture. Many defendants charged with offenses had their money and property seized even if they were found not guilty. With new legislation signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the criminal defendant will now have a higher chance of protecting their assets. iStock_000040898380_Full-2-300x200

The new legislation will prevent assets taken in suspected drug crimes from being forfeited unless the defendant is convicted or the value of the money and property is more than $50,000, excluding the cost of contraband. A conviction or guilty plea will not be required in instances where no one claims an interest in the property, the owner allows the forfeiture or a defendant has been charged but cannot be located or extradited to Michigan. The reason for the $50,000 threshold has been established due to accusations of more significant distribution cases. To gather insight on this law, we spoke to some of the top criminal defense lawyers in our state to obtain their commentary.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has created a firm that is known as the top in the state of Michigan. When asked his thoughts, Grabel stated, “Many times in these cases, our firm has taken over after the period of a forfeiture filing had passed. Our goals are not only to protect the freedom of the defendant but also to protect their economic interest and not to be restrained due to a lack of filing by a previous attorney. When we take on a client, we want to protect them in every way possible. The new law will afford us that opportunity.”

Following the death of Prince in 2016, Fentanyl became a well-known painkiller that prior to that time was rarely mentioned. Unfortunately, people often take this drug believing it is hydrocodone although it’s said to be 50 times stronger than heroin. Still, regardless of the danger, many continue to sell or distribute this Schedule II drug which not only causes severe dependence but is highly abused. While it is approved for use in cancer patients with excruciating pain, using it in any criminal manner may result in serious consequences. iStock_000011602905_Large-2-300x200

Used as a recreational drug, many who purchase what they believe to be other narcotic drugs such as heroin or opioid drugs often don’t realize the drug is actually fentanyl disguised as another pharmaceutical or “street” drugs. Over the last 17 years thousands of individuals have died as a result of using fentanyl, even when prescribed by medical professionals but used improperly by patients in some cases.

Fentanyl is highly potent, and can result in overdose when used by those who are seeking a “high” because of its addictive properties. Derived from morphine, fentanyl is not only administered via IV prior to surgery but can also be taken in tablet, lozenge, film, powder, nasal spray, or transdermal (through the skin) form.

Whether in Michigan or any other state, nearly anyone can be accused of possessing illicit drugs, prescription or otherwise. Unfortunately, in certain circumstances an individual may be charged with possession with intent, if the prosecutor determines the substance in your possession was more than would be considered normal for personal use. Can you fight drug possession charges, and if so, how? iStock_000014717444_XXXLarge-300x200

In the U.S. all people who are charged with any criminal offense, regardless of its seriousness, are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Some people unfortunately have the opinion that anyone facing criminal charges is guilty, however this is not the case. In fact, many are innocent. If you are facing drug possession charges, how can you fight and avoid criminal penalties that often include jail time, probation, fines, a criminal record, loss of your driving privilege, and more?

Drug possession charges are some of the most common in every state; thousands of people are arrested each year, often in connection with a minute amount of a controlled substance found on a person, or in his/her car. While defending these charges is possible, it can be challenging, however in many cases prosecutors have more serious cases to attend to and may agree to reduce or even dismiss charges. Regardless of the situation, there are several defense strategies that may prove effective depending on the facts of each individual case. These include:

Recently a Lansing man was sentenced to five years, 10 months in prison for allegedly transporting cocaine from Texas to Michigan. Carlos Ramirez-Zuniga was reportedly involved in a drug ring, much to the surprise of friends and family members. iStock_000040898380_Full-2-300x200

News reports indicate that friends and family were in disbelief after learning of the crime Ramirez-Zuniga had allegedly committed. According to the government, he was involved in a drug ring that began in 2001 in Michigan, one that “Hector,” a man whose real name was Merced Alvarado, began.

Ramirez-Zuniga’s defense lawyer stated in a sentencing memorandum that his client was concerned about his children viewing him in an unflattering light, something other than the loving, providing father he was known to be. His attorney went on to say that he is “very remorseful” for the mistakes he has made. Additionally, numerous letters were provided to the court supporting the fact that Ramirez-Zuniga was a highly regarded member of the community who was considered to be of ‘good character’ by those who knew him.

Earlier in July, Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team (KVET) investigators learned that a man was transporting crystal meth into Kalamazoo County. This led to the arrest on July 23rd of 36-year-old Buddy Parker of Fairfield, Ohio, who according to reports was trafficking the drug in from California.

Copyright David Hardman
In the course of the investigation members of the KVET team learned that Parker intended to bring in about five pounds of the crystal meth from California, an amount with a street value of more than $300,000. Parker was arrested before delivery of the drugs occurred, and was reportedly in possession of three handguns, one of which was loaded, and a substantial amount of cash. Reports also claim more meth, money, and guns were discovered when officials searched Parker’s Ohio home.

KVET, along with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office Undercover Regional Narcotics Taskforce investigated the case. The handguns and money said to be in Parker’s possession were found in his vehicle when a search was conducted by authorities.

Recently, a federal class action lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Detroit Division against Michigan State Police crime labs claimed that Fourth Amendment rights and due process are violated by the current marijuana reporting policy. medical marijuana leaf

According to news reports, the lawsuit would directly impact anyone caught with marijuana in the state, along with about 180,000 medical marijuana patients who are registered. Attorneys who filed the suit said that the MSP crime labs, in conjunction with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Dept. and Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan misreport marijuana as synthetic, and do so intentionally. The lawsuit also alleges that the marijuana policy which was written in 2013 was designed in an attempt to “strip medical marijuana patients of their rights and immunities, charge or threaten to charge citizens with greater crimes than they might have committed, obtain plea deals and increase proceeds from drug forfeiture.”

This basically stems from a lab policy instructing MSP crime lab techs to treat all TCH (the active ingredient in marijuana) as synthetic when not 100% certain it originates from a plant. While it may not sound like much, it is according to Michigan law. Essentially, individuals who are accused of manufacturing or selling synthetic THC or cannabis will face criminal charges that are far more serious than those accused of producing or selling cannabis grown as a plant.

Over the past two or three years heroin has made a strong comeback in West Michigan, resulting in not heroinonly countless deaths due to overdose, but a substantial rise in criminal charges. HIDTA, or high intensity drug trafficking areas, include Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Detroit, among others. Not too many years ago, Flint became a city that ranked continuously as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. for several reasons, one being a sharp increase in heroin use. How does the increase of heroin addiction relate to the increase in crime in the state?

In regions where heroin addiction is high (particularly HIDTA regions), violent and property crimes are quite common. Heroin addicts often know no boundaries when it comes to getting their “fix,” and those who distribute or traffic heroin will go to almost any lengths to protect their distribution operations. Some of the most common criminal offenses committed by addicts who seek the funds to support their addictions include burglary, robbery, retail fraud, and other theft crimes.

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On Thursday, April 14, a 30-year-old Jacksonville, NC man was stopped by the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office Crime Reduction Team. Although news reports do not reveal why Andrew James Sanderford was stopped by officers, he now faces felony drug charges. iStock_000013484355_XXXLarge-270x300

According to news reports, the officers discovered heroin inside Sanderford’s vehicle along with drug paraphernalia. He also allegedly has outstanding warrants. Sanderford is now charged with a single count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of possession with intent to manufacture, deliver, or sell heroin, a felony charge. At last news reports he was in the Onslow County Jail under a $30,000 bond.

The media reports contain very few details, so we can only speculate as to why Sanderford was charged with possession with intent to distribute/deliver heroin. Police generally submit a charging request to the prosecutor, who then decides whether an individual will be charged with a crime, and what the charge will be. In cases involving illegal substances such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, or other drugs, police and prosecutors often make their decision regarding whether someone should be charged with simple possession or possession with intent based on the amount of drug in that person’s possession.

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