Eleven people in Bethel have been charged with illegally obtaining painkillers after a three-day investigation at the Bethel Post Office this summer.
In late July and early August, Alaska State Troopers and investigators from the United States Postal Service found 19 packages headed toward Bethel and the surrounding communities. They contained a total of 3,400 tramadol pills, according to the Alaska Department of Law.
Katholyn Runnels is the assistant attorney general overseeing the investigation. She says that they frequently see diverted tramadol connected with other prescription drug abuse.
"And I think we do see the tendency of that drug higher in Western Alaska than in other parts of the state," Runnels said.
Tramadol is a mild opioid pain medication, a schedule four drug only available with a prescription. It is easier to get than more powerful narcotics and is widely used in veterinary care.
Shortly after a visit from Attorney General William Barr earlier this year, federal and state law enforcement said that they launched a “surge” to combat illegal and diverted drugs flooding rural Alaska. Barr declared a public law enforcement emergency, and released additional funds and resources for combating related problems. Federal officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency estimate that as many as 100,000 tramadol pills are sent into Alaska each month, most frequently through the mail system.
The people charged are: Olga A.M. Engebreth, Douglas W. Chase, Karen T. Evans, Evon A. Fox, Ryan S. Greydanus, William McCarr Jr., Nick Nicholai, Elizabeth Anvil, Walter M. Paul, Connie Pavilla, and David Kol Simon.