Arizona Couple Sentenced to Three Years Each in Federal Prison for Selling Dried Opium Poppy to Indianapolis Residents

Staff report

INDIANAPOLIS — June 20, 2023

Todd Anderson, 60, and Carolyn Anderson, 58, of Flagstaff, Arizona, have been sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to distributing opium poppy and morphine, announced U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers of the Southern District of Indiana.

According to court documents, the Andersons engaged in packaging and shipping hundreds of pounds of poppy straw (dried opium poppy) to Indiana and California between June 2019 and August 2020. They utilized their four Arizona-based businesses to unlawfully import the poppy from the United Kingdom. Poppy Straw is classified as a Schedule II Controlled Substance, known for its highly addictive and potentially fatal opioid effects. Morphine, a powerful opioid and another Schedule II controlled substance, is an active ingredient in poppy straw.

The couple operated a website offering “dried poppy pods” for sale in various quantities. Neither Todd nor Carolyn, nor their businesses, were registered importers with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to sell controlled substances, as mandated by law. While there are numerous types of poppy plants, the specific variety illegally imported and sold by the Andersons is the only one designated as a controlled substance. Dried poppy pods and other parts of the plant are commonly ground up and steeped in hot water to produce “poppy tea,” which contains high levels of morphine.

Carolyn Anderson arranged multiple transactions via text message, facilitating the purchase of 10 to 50 pounds of poppy straw for $125 per pound by individuals in Indianapolis and Noblesville. The Andersons instructed buyers to describe their business to authorities as “an Online dried floral business” and labeled packages as containing “dried decorations.”

On August 13, 2020, Todd and Carolyn were arrested at their Arizona property, where local law enforcement discovered 499 kilograms (approximately one-half a metric ton) of poppy straw. Additionally, agents seized roughly 40 kilograms of poppy straw that the Andersons had shipped to customers in Indiana and other locations.

U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers stated, “Illegal opioid abuse and substance use disorders have driven epidemic levels of overdoses and other traumas suffered by our families, friends, and neighbors. The federal prison sentences imposed against these defendants demonstrate that interstate and international drug trafficking schemes carry serious criminal consequences.” Myers expressed his commitment, along with the DEA and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), to protect the public by investigating and prosecuting individuals who introduce dangerous drugs into communities for illicit profits.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) conducted the investigation. The sentences were handed down by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt. Following their release from federal prison, the defendants will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for three years. Additionally, each defendant has been ordered to pay a $15,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Myers expressed his gratitude to Assistant United States Attorneys Bradley P. Shepard and William L. McCoskey for prosecuting the case.

The case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF employs a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach to identify, disrupt, and dismantle high-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that pose threats to the United States, utilizing the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

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