Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Federal inspector intercepts heroin in Washington; sets up sting at local post office


October 12, 2017 | View PDF

Police arrested a young couple during a sting operation Tuesday afternoon after the pair picked up a package from the post office containing what they thought was 14 grams of heroin.

After obtaining a federal warrant to open the package, U.S. Postal Inspector Aaron Behnen intercepted the large envelope containing the heroin on Oct. 5 in Washington, according to the criminal complaint. The package was sent from a fictitious address in Marysville, Wash. to the 24-year-old male defendant in Haines.

Behnen traveled to Haines Oct. 10 where he placed an electronic alert device into the package and replaced the 14 grams of heroin with “‘sham’ narcotics, substances resembling narcotics but harmless in nature” along with .2 of a gram of heroin, the criminal complaint says.

On Tuesday afternoon, local police set up outside the post office while Behnan waited inside with postal staff. Behnan watched the defendants arrive in a vehicle around 12:30 p.m.

The male defendant was in the passenger seat and the female defendant, 19, was driving. He picked up the package and returned to the car.

The alert tone activated, alerting officers that the package had been opened. Police contacted the defendants, still parked at the post office, and found the package on the passenger seat floorboard. Police found the tracking device and heroin inside.

“(The male defendant) said he received the package from a friend living in Washington,” the criminal complaint says. “(He) said the arrangement he made with the individual in Washington was that he was to sell the heroin from the package in Haines and split the profits with the individual in Washington.”

Both defendants were charged with one count of misconduct involving a controlled substance in the second degree, a felony charge, and were released Wednesday morning after appearing in court.

At that hearing, Police Chief Heath Scott recommended the couple be released with a condition they submit to random urinalysis and begin substance abuse counseling.

“During the investigation we found both had had a long-term use and we think the randomized (urinary analysis) as well as the counseling is for their benefit,” Scott said.

Magistrate Mary Kay Germain, who presided over the hearing telephonically, accepted Scott’s recommendation.

“I think that it’s more important for you to get help than sit in a jail cell while this case is being resolved,” Germain said. “I’m going to release you on your own recognizance, but the police can stop you or stop in and see you or ask you to come in for random urinary analysis and I want you to get to the counselors and I want you to get an assessment.”

In a separate interview, Scott said both defendants cooperated with investigators.

“We wouldn’t have given them the conditions we did if they weren’t acting cooperatively,” Scott said. “We told them we were giving them an opportunity. We want them to seek help and seek treatment.”

Scott said he couldn’t comment on where the investigation will lead locally, but Haines Police will assist federal authorities “in any way, shape or form.” The seized heroin is worth “a couple thousand dollars” in Haines, Scott said.

The defendants are required to check in with counselors at least once a week.

The charges against them carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and up to a $100,000 fine.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 31 unless a grand jury meets before then.


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