Story last updated at 8:00 PM on Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Six charged in 3 separate drug busts



BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG
STAFF WRITER

Homer Police and Alaska State Troopers made three drug busts over the past two weeks. In separate drug cases, Homer Police last week charged an Anchor Point man and two 16-year-old boys with dealing methamphetamines. Homer Police charged a Washington couple with possessing meth, heroin and marijuana after Transportation Security Administration officers found drugs in their luggage at the Homer Airport.



  Photo provided, Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Enforcement
This photograph shows some of the 66 marijuana plants seized at a grow operation June 13 at a home north of Anchor Point.  
An Alaska State Troopers Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Enforcement team also arrested a Ninilchik man June 13 for growing marijuana and seized 66 plants and seven ounces of processed pot.

“We’re aggressively investigating drug-related cases in Homer,” said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl. “Our goal is to bust as many drug dealers as we can.”

Charged were:

Patrick R. O’Larey, 20, Anchor Point, four counts of third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance;

Martin E. Cooper, 41, Bonney Lake, Wash., and Paula L. Hopper, 35, Covington, Wash., both for second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, heroin; third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, methamphetamines; sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, marijuana;

Michael Walter, 48, three counts of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, marijuana.

O’Larey and Walter were arrested and taken to Wildwood Pretrial Facility. Cooper and Hopper left the airport while TSA officers searched their luggage. Cooper was arrested Sunday night by Anchorage airport police. A warrant for Hopper’s arrest has been issued, but she has not yet been caught, said Robl. Charges of second- and third-degree MICS for the two 16-year-old boys were referred to the Division of Juvenile Justice.

O’Larey was arrested following a month-long undercover investigation by Homer Police. Police allege an unnamed citizen informant using marked bills bought from O’Larey a total of 8.5 grams of meth on four occasions between June 14 and June 21 in Homer. The informant paid a total of $1,520 for the meth.

Robl said police believe O’Larey was selling to adults and not children.

In a second Homer case, a TSA officer doing a routine baggage check at the Homer Airport found suspicious items in three pieces of luggage alleged to belong to Cooper and Hopper. According to a criminal complaint, the couple checked in about 5:50 p.m. last Friday for a flight to Anchorage and had reservations for a flight to Seattle. The TSA officer told police she found what she suspected was marijuana and other narcotics in the luggage. When Cooper and Hopper saw the officer find the suspected drugs, they left the airport.

The officer and another TSA officer told police after searching further they found meth, heroin and a digital scale. The items were hidden in clothing, socks and a box of female hygiene products. Police seized the narcotics and allege they tested positive for meth, heroin and marijuana, and that there were 10.7 grams of meth and 8.6 grams of black tar heroin. According to Harvey Goehring, special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Agency, Anchorage, the street value in Anchorage for a gram of heroin is between $300 and $400, or between $2,580 and $3,440 for 8.6 grams.

Robl said heroin is sometimes seen in Homer, but not often.

TSA officers do not have authority to make arrests, said Corky Caldwell, federal security director, Anchorage.

“Our job is looking for security items, not prohibited items. If we find those items in the course of our investigations, we report it to the airline or law enforcement authorities,” he said.

Robl said police are investigating a possible connection between the airport drug seizures and the O’Larey arrest.

Police said Cooper uses at least eight different aliases and has convictions in Washington state for heroin and marijuana possession.

In the Ninilchik marijuana bust, a 30-person team at about 7:30 a.m. June 13 raided two homes at Mile 141 and Mile 150 Sterling Highway north of Anchor Point. Agents from the Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Enforcement, the Anchor Point troopers, Homer Police, Soldotna Police, Kenai Police, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Soldotna Community Emergency Response Team served warrants on the two homes. A Homer Volunteer Fire Department medic with CERT also assisted.

The ABADE team found 66 marijuana plants weighing 1.56 pounds when dried and seven ounces of processed marijuana at Michael Walter’s home at Mile 150, said Trooper Thad Hamilton of ABADE, Soldotna. He alleged Walter had an active indoor grow operation with grow lights powered by two diesel generators. Some plants had been recently harvested and others were producing buds. At $200 to $250 an ounce, Hamilton said the marijuana was of good quality and had a street value of about $8,000. Troopers also seized $5,000 in cash. Walter was arrested without incident.

Eleven plants were outside and 55 were inside the house.

“The grow room looked like it could easily hold up to 150 plants,” Hamilton said.

Walter claimed he was growing the marijuana for personal use, Hamilton said. Troopers alleged Walter hadn’t worked in seven years and was growing marijuana for a living.

“The average stoner goes through about an ounce a week,” Hamilton said. “When you’re producing two, three pounds a month, it’s obvious what you’re doing with it.”

The ABADE team also found an inactive grow operation at the Mile 141 Sterling Highway house, where Walter’s son, Jesse Walter, lives. The team found about a pound of processed marijuana. Jesse Walter has not been arrested, and charges have been forwarded to the Kenai District Attorney’s office, Hamilton said Tuesday.

The raid came about following a three-month investigation. Troopers had received anonymous tips over the years of a marijuana grow operation in the area and followed up on those tips. According to court records, Michael Walter pleaded no contest in May 2004 to sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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