PORTLAND, Maine — A Georgia woman who admitted to mailing thousands of diverted prescription pain pills to Maine — where they are in high demand by drug addicts — is going to spend the next eight years behind bars in federal prison.
“This is a serious problem in Maine and elsewhere,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Perry, who prosecuted the case, said Thursday of prescription drug abuse. “We wanted an appropriately just sentence to deter others in Florida” from running drugs to Maine.
Lisa Baster, 54, of McCaysville, Ga., was arrested in July 2010 in Florida for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute oxycodone after an undercover sting by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency captured her two Maine distributors, according to U.S. District Court documents.
“She was making $21,000 a month [dealing drugs] while she was on Social Security Disability,” Perry said.
Baster pleaded guilty to the federal charge in March 2011 and after more than a year of hearings and numerous continuations of court dates was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge George Singal to 96 months in prison.
Singal also sentenced her to three years of supervised release and added a special condition barring her from using or even possessing any controlled substance, alcohol or other intoxicant.
The drug dealing started in January 2008 and stopped when the government executed search warrants in April 2009, including one at the Newry home of Nicole Terry, according to Perry. During the 15½ months, Baster diverted at least 460 pain pills to Maine each month and made in excess of $230,000 in profit, the prosecutor said.
The pills were sent by mail to Terry and Crystal Dill, ages unknown, who distributed them to drug users in Maine. Both were convicted of drug dealing last year, Perry said.
“They received sentences of 160 and 50,” the prosecutor said. “Nicole Terry got 160 months and Dill got 50 months.”
Agents with the MDEA purchased drugs using a confidential informant from one man in February 2009 and then followed a woman, later identified as Terry, who delivered the drugs to him.
In the defendant’s sentencing memorandum, Baster’s attorney Michael Whipple said his client supplied “a large portion of the drugs Ms. Terry and Ms. Dill sold” but not all, and added in a separate area that Terry is a “cooperating informant” and “should not be trusted to serve a cup of coffee, much less have her statements relied on.”
He said his client “is a good person caught in the tsunami of OxyContin that has swept across our country.”
OxyContin is a brand name and a slow-release version of the painkiller oxycodone.
A 1993 car accident injured Baster, which is why the mother of three is on painkillers for her chronic pain, Whipple said.
“She wakes up each morning and begins her day by taking two 80-milligram OxyContin,” her Portland attorney said.
Throughout the day, she’ll take four more 80-milligram OxyContin and four 40-milligram OxyContin, he said.
“This is Lisa’s long-term, legally prescribed, pain management regimen,” Whipple said. “Her body is totally dependant on it.”
A request for comment left for Whipple, who has filed an appeal, was not immediately returned.
Despite what Whipple said in his defendant’s memorandum, Maine U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II said there was only one reason Baster sold drugs.
“This defendant’s motivation was greed — pure, unadulterated greed,” Delahanty said in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “[The] defendant set up a lucrative criminal enterprise — by defrauding the health insurer into paying for the prescriptions that she then diverted. [Baster] ensured that the entire proceeds generated from the sales [which amounted to approximately $21,000 monthly] were her profits.”