EUGENE, Ore. — A Grants Pass man will serve three months in federal prison for his part in an opioid trafficking ring that included a group of conspirators in Southern Oregon and California, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon.
37-year-old Brett Allen McNeal was convicted of distributing oxycodone in the interstate organization.
Prosecutors say that the organization stemmed from Daniel Cham, a doctor who was practicing in La Puente, California at the time. Cham would illegally hand out prescriptions for oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other powerful drugs in exchange for money orders and cash. The drugs were then moved through a network north from Southern California — to eventually be sold in Oregon.
“At a time when the opioid crisis continues to worsen in Oregon, some medical providers aim to profit off addiction," said U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams. "The drug trafficking network that grew from Dr. Cham’s criminal activity contributed to the overdose deaths of two people, including a young woman here in Oregon.”
Cham would write prescriptions for people he knew, others he didn't, and even some well-known drug dealers and addicts. He regularly sold prescriptions to John Bryden, an Oregonian, who would then sell them to other co-conspirators for distribution.
“This conduct is reprehensible. Criminal organizations who traffic opioids will be dismantled, person-by-person, until every last participant has been prosecuted,” said Williams.
Prosecutors say that McNeal purchased oxycodone from a man named Austin Alderet, then sold it for profit to "end users."
One of those end users, Jessica Morretti, died of an overdose on April 13, 2012.
According to text messages on Moretti’s cell phone from the evening she overdosed, McNeal had provided her with five 30mg oxycodone pills the same day. An analysis of post-mortem toxicology reports indicated that the lethal amount of oxycodone in Moretti’s system could have come from multiple sources, including McNeal.
“Corrupt doctors and dealers who cash in on the opioid epidemic are fueling the cycle of dependence and addiction in our community. In doing so, they put lives at risk and make it that much more difficult for the most vulnerable to overcome the pull of these narcotics,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
McNeal later admitted to law enforcement that he had purchased the pills from Alderete on multiple occasions.
“This is a health care problem, a crime problem and a societal problem - and one that will take many partners working together to address fully," said Cannon.
McNeal is the sixth and final defendant in the organization to be sentenced. The others are as follows:
• Daniel Cham, 49, of Covina, California – 160 months in prison and three years’ supervised release (sentenced in the Central District of California)
• Kevin Grimes, 46, of Calimesa, California – 37 months in prison and three years’ supervised release
• Austin Alderete, 32, no known residence – 21 months in prison and three years’ supervised release
• Maricela Ann Cooper, 27, of Central Point, Oregon – time served in prison and three years’ supervised release
• Laurie Ryan, 59, of Jackson County, Oregon – 18 months’ probation (sentenced in Jackson County Circuit Court)
Prosecutors say that Tracy Townsend, a high-level co-conspirator of Cham’s from California, remains at large. John Bryden died before being prosecuted.