Alaska inmates among 53 indicted in drug ring targeting communities, prosecutors say

S. Lane Tucker, U.S Attorney for the District of Alaska, speaks at a press conference in Anchorage on Thursday,. Jan. 25, 2024. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

More than 50 people have been charged in connection with an international drug trafficking ring targeting Alaska communities, according to an announcement from federal authorities Thursday and nine criminal indictments over the past seven months.

The defendants conspired to bring fentanyl, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine from Mexico into the state between February 2022 and July 2023, U.S. Attorney for Alaska S. Lane Tucker said. Court records show some members of the drug ring were inmates at Alaska correctional facilities, including several indicted this week while held at Anchorage Correctional Complex and Hiland Mountain Correctional Center.

“The criminal enterprise allegedly sent drugs to Anchorage, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Goodnews Bay, Ketchikan, Kodiak, New Stuyahok, Palmer, Sand Point, Savoonga, Sitka, Togiak, Tyonek and Wasilla,” Tucker said at a press conference Thursday.

The drug ring was allegedly headed by 57-year-old Heraclio Sanchez-Rodriguez, a California inmate who’s accused of using phones smuggled into prison to communicate with suppliers in Mexico and people in Oregon and California who shipped the drugs to Alaska. A high-level associate of Sanchez Rodriguez, 38-year-old Christina Quintana, is alleged to have recruited inmates set for release from Hiland Mountain to participate in the drug ring while she was serving time there as well. 

Sanchez-Rodriguez’s alleged accomplices sent drugs, mainly fentanyl, through the mail and distributed them within Alaska communities, Tucker said. Grand juries have been handing up indictments of alleged drug ring members since June of last year.

“The indictments also include charges against members of the organization in North Pole for the distribution of fentanyl, resulting in the overdose death of Adam Sakkinen,” Tucker said. “We have also charged over 25 defendants in this case with money laundering conspiracy to promote the drug trafficking organization.”

The drug trafficking ring is also connected to the kidnapping and murders of 30-year old Sunday Powers and 34-year-old Kami Clark last May, according to one of the indictments. 

Over the course of the investigation, officials say law enforcement officers intercepted hundreds of thousands of fentanyl pills, in addition to other narcotics. The volume of the drugs flowing into rural Alaska communities could’ve potentially led to many deaths, Tucker said. 

“There were 44 lethal doses for every person in Togiak, I believe it was,” Tucker said. “So in some of these communities there were enough lethal doses to kill the community several times over.”

All 53 people charged in the indictments had been taken into custody as of Thursday, according to court records.

The 53 indicted are:

  • Alison Giacullo, 40
  • Amber Young, 28
  • Amy Garcia, 32
  • Angela Jasper, 39
  • Anna Petla, 24
  • April Chythlook, 28
  • Ashley Northrup, 35
  • Catherine Phillips, 40
  • Christina Quintana, 28
  • Cloe Sam, 26
  • Colleen McDaniel, 68
  • Della Northway, 28
  • Desiree Green, 45
  • Douglas Vanmeter, 32
  • Edward Ginnis, 38
  • Elroy Bouchard, 58
  • Erika Badillo, a.k.a “Erica Madrigal,” 42
  • Erindira Pin, 44
  • Frieda Gillespie, 50
  • Gust Romie, 36
  • Heraclio Sanchez-Rodriguez, a.k.a “Charlie,” “Marco” and “Danny Sanchez”, 57
  • James Schwarz, 41
  • Josi Sterling, f.k.a “Josi Philbin,” 35
  • Julia Brusell, 41
  • Kaleea Fox, 24
  • Karen Kasak, 51
  • Karly Fuller, 30
  • Kevin Peterson II, 29
  • Khamthene Thongdy, 45
  • Krystyn Gosuk, 33
  • Larry Marsden, 41
  • Lois Frank, 64
  • Mario Klanott, 37
  • Michael Kohler, 35
  • Michael Soto, 33
  • Michelle Pungowiyi, 49
  • Naomi Sanchez, 39
  • Pasquale Giordano, 45
  • Patricia Seal-Uttke, 30
  • Pius Hanson, 40
  • Richard Frye, 35
  • Rochelle Wood, 38
  • Samantha Pearson, 37
  • Sara Orr, 32
  • Shanda Barlow, 34
  • Shania Agli, 25
  • Stormy Cleveland, f.k.a “Stormy Powell,” 37
  • Tamara Bren, 41
  • Tamberlyn Solomon, 25
  • Tiffani Couch, 30
  • Twyla Gloko, 36
  • Valerie Sanchez, 26
  • Veronica Sanchez, 49

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

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