Fifty-three people have now been charged in what officials call a “large-scale organized crime ring” that flooded some of the smallest communities in Alaska with fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
“We have successfully dismantled one of the biggest drug trafficking rings harming Alaska communities in the history of our state,” U.S. Attorney for Alaska Lane Tucker said at a news conference in Anchorage Thursday.
Thursday’s announcement is not the first Alaskans have heard of the trafficking ring: Last summer and fall, prosecutors charged 16 people in three indictments related to a drug distribution ring run by a California man from his prison cell, as well as the alleged killing of two women near Trapper Creek at his behest.
Thursday’s announcement represents a major expansion of criminal charges against people allegedly involved, with 53 people now charged via a total of nine separate cases — so many that at Thursday’s press conference in Anchorage, officials passed out an alphabetized list of the defendants’ names.
More than 25 of those charged are accused of participating in money laundering related to drug trafficking. Others are charged with crimes including possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute.
The newly unsealed indictments also link, for the first time, Samantha Pearson, 37, of North Pole to the conspiracy. Pearson was charged with manslaughter in 2022 for selling a man fentanyl he died from overdosing on. Edward Ginnis, 38, of North Pole, was also charged in the man’s death.
Prosecutors say law enforcement agencies intercepted 36 kilograms of fentanyl, 27.3 kilograms of meth, 11.3 grams of heroin and 118 grams of cocaine linked to the ring between February 2022 and July 2023, and that the drugs were bound for communities as small and remote as Savoonga, Goodnews Bay and Tyonek.
Tess Williams contributed reporting.