Two Arizona men face federal charges in Alaska accusing them of transporting large amounts of the illegal and highly potent drug fentanyl into the state by way of flights into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage this week said law enforcement arrested Arizona residents Odarious Contelles Shaw and Corrion Terrell James separately on warrants from a federal indictment charging them with trafficking fentanyl to Alaska. The investigation into the trafficking operation began last year, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Alaska.
Shaw, a Tempe resident described by prosecutors as the leader of the operation, was arrested earlier this month in Arizona and brought to Alaska this week. An undercover agent communicated with Shaw via social media and learned he would send “couriers” to Alaska on commercial airlines with pills in their checked luggage, according to a government memo filed in the case.
Shaw distributed fentanyl pills to Alaska twice a week for six to seven months, in quantities of an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 pills at a time, the memo said. “In some instances, Shaw would ship more than 200,000 pills at a time.”
James, a Phoenix resident, was serving as a courier in June when he was arrested at the Anchorage airport with what prosecutors say was about 40,000 pills in his checked luggage, according to the memo.
At the time of his arrest, James was on the phone with Shaw and carrying a medium flat-rate postal box that agents later discovered held four vacuum-packed bags containing approximately 10,000 pills each, the document says. An agent testified in court that the pills in Anchorage would have been worth at least $400,000 and in rural Alaska at least $3.2 million, it said. He also testified that James made four flights to Alaska in the month before he was arrested.
James was released on his own recognizance earlier this month. His attorney declined to comment when reached by phone.
Fentanyl is 50 times as potent as heroin and kills more Americans each year than vehicle accidents, homicides, or all firearm deaths, according to the federal memo. Alaska, like other states, has experienced a dramatic increase in fentanyl overdose injuries and deaths in recent years.