Juneau drug mule leads agents to Portland dealers

casey.grove@adn.comDecember 8, 2012 

A woman carrying nearly four ounces of heroin inside her body from Seattle to Juneau helped investigators catch two dealers last week, according to a charging document filed in federal court.

Statements to Alaska authorities by the drug-transporter-turned-informant led to the arrests of two Oregon residents: Michael Magana and Johanna Echeverria. Magana, 34, and Echeverria, 26, are charged with felony distribution of heroin and methamphetamine.

It's unclear if the informant was charged. She is not named in the charging document.

According to an affidavit filed in court, the investigation started in October with a tip from a confidential source. Two people would be flying into Juneau with drugs, the source said. The two arrived and appeared nervous at the airport, but a police dog did not smell drugs on their single checked bag and the pair were let go, the charges say.

It's clear from the charging document that federal agents continued to track the movements of one of the people contacted in October. The confidential source told authorities in November that their target would again be flying into Juneau with drugs, this time accompanied by a different person, a woman, the charges say.

After meeting the two travelers at Juneau International Airport, the woman "was very nervous and exhibited several signs of carrying narcotics internally," the charging document says. The agents received a search warrant and took the woman to a hospital, where medical staff examined her and found a condom packed with 111 grams of heroin inside the woman, the charges say. The woman later admitted she'd been recruited to be a drug courier and that a "Chris" and "Melissa," later determined to be Magana and Echeverria, had sold her the drugs at a hotel in Portland, Ore., according to the charges.

On Wednesday, working with federal agents in Portland, the investigators set up another drug purchase between a confidential source and Echeverria for three ounces of heroin and three ounces of meth, which Magana would provide. But as Magana drove to a convenience store where the deal was set to go down, an agent pulled over his Volvo car, and the investigators later found 77 grams of heroin and 88 grams of meth inside a stuffed animal in the car, the charges say.

In an interview with federal agents, Echeverria admitted that she and Magana had provided drugs to several Alaska-bound couriers in the past. Jail records show Echeverria and Magana were in the custody of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office on Saturday.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

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