Feds say case was connected to drug smuggling in Anchorage jails
Valdez woman Cori Hillar, age 40, pleaded guilty to a single count of “drug conspiracy” according to federal charging documents that outline her small role in a larger drug ring operating in Anchorage. A codefendant in the case, Daniel Meza of Anchorage, was named as a supplier in a related case where a correctional officer, Patrick Sherman, smuggled drugs and syringes into the Anchorage Correctional Complex. Profits from the drug sales in both cases were funneled to El Salvador, Mexico and Columbia.
“She was definitely doing her selling activity in Valdez,” said Craig Warner, the assistant US Prosecuting Attorney on the case. “That’s where she was distributing.”
Hillar was indicted by a federal grand jury July 23, 2010 charged with four federal cocaine and conspiracy related charges.
In her plea agreement with prosecutors dated March 31, 2011, Hillar admitted her role in the conspiracy, and three charges were dropped.
“Ms. Hillar pleaded out some time ago,” said Daniel Wardlaw, a special agent and public information officer for the criminal investigation office of the IRS.
“Although the defendant does not have personal knowledge of the conspiracy’s origins, the defendant does not dispute that the conspiracy in this case began on approximately October 26, 2007, and continued until approximately June 15, 2010,” Hillar’s plea agreement says. “Although the defendant does not have personal knowledge of the operation of the conspiracy beyond her personal involvement, the defendant does not dispute that to facilitate this purpose, members of the conspiracy smuggled cocaine and methamphetamine into Alaska from sources in both the continental United State and foreign nations.”
The original indictment naming Hillar as a coconspirator states she was in possession of six ounces of a substance containing cocaine with the intention to distribute it on June 15, 2010.
Sentencing in Hillar’s case was deferred for 60 days February 27 according to Alaska Federal Court documents. In a 2011 motion filed by Hillar’s attorney, Robert Herz, Hillar remained free pending sentencing. Herz also indicated it was “entirely plausible and realistic” that Hillar would not be imprisoned under the plea deal she entered into with federal prosecutors.
Hillar’s plea agreement states the drug conspiracy charge can carry a maximum 20 year sentence, up to a $1 million fine and a minimum probationary period of three years.
According to a press release from Craig Warner, an assistant prosecuting attorney for the Dept. of Justice, seven other defendants – all from Anchorage - have made plea bargains in the conspiracy case. Warner named Edwin Enriquez, Billy Fuller, Brandy Barnes, Michael Raab, and Debbie Beisinaiz.
Meza pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, 50 grams of meth and a kilogram of heroin. Additionally, two defendants were charged separately in the case. James McAnulty, age 34, pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and Robin Ray, age 29, pleaded guilty to money laundering.
According to Daniel Wardlaw, a special agent and public information officer for the criminal investigation office of the IRS, the cases were made against the defendants by a federal interagency task force spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA. Its member agencies in the investigation included the agents and officers of the DEA, DEA officers deputized by Alaska State Troopers and the Anchorage Police Dept., the IRS, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Dept. of Justice press release said the Palmer Police Dept. made “substantial contributions to the investigation.”