Overdose unravels drug ring

A low-level drug dealer who sparked a multi-state prescription drug-trafficking investigation will serve three months in prison after he sold opiates to a Jackson County woman who died of an overdose.

Brett Allen McNeal, 37, of Grants Pass, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene for distributing oxycodone in a case that began in 2012 with the death of 26-year-old Jessica Moretti of Rogue River.

Moretti, a mother of two, purchased five 30-milligram oxycodone tablets and four 10-milligram Percocets from McNeal the night of April 1, 2012, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Medford.

A search of McNeal’s home yielded a baggie filled with Percocet pills with “$50” written on the side of the bag, as well as $990 in cash and scales, police said.

McNeal told investigators he’d sold the prescription medications for roughly a year prior to Moretti’s death. He reportedly resold pills purchased from Robert Austin Alderete of Medford, whom McNeal knew as his cousin’s stepfather.

Police said Alderete was one of at least three dealers based in Southern Oregon who resold pills from prescriptions written by Dr. Daniel Cham of Las Gatos, California. Cham was sentenced to 13 years in prison in March, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Alderete was sentenced to just under two years in prison in September 2017, court records show.

Kevin Charles Grimes, 46, of Calimesa, California, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute oxycodone and sentenced to nearly three years in prison in May 2017. Grimes was separately sentenced in Jackson County Circuit Court to five years, 10 months in prison for assault and drunken driving convictions after a crash that paralyzed his friend the morning of Jan. 1, 2016.

Maricela Ann Cooper, 27, of Central Point, was sentenced to time served and three years of supervised release in November 2017 for conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.

Laurie Jean Ryan, 59, of White City, was sentenced to 18 months’ probation on a misdemeanor drug possession charge in April of this year.

John Bryden of Ashland, who sold the prescription medications to Grimes, Alderete, Cooper and Ryan, died before he could be prosecuted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Still wanted in the scheme is Tracy Laird Townsend of Studio City, California, whom the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges was a high-level co-conspirator with Cham.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

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