In January through October 2020, the Nome Office of the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit’s (SDEU) Western Alaska Alcohol and Narcotics Team (WAANT) lead a large-scale investigation into the sale and distribution of heroin and methamphetamine in Nome. Through the use of various investigative techniques and tactics, Investigators were able to determine numerous individuals were selling and distributing heroin and methamphetamine for $100-$120 per dose; an individual dose is one tenth of a gram (0.10g). It was also determined that ten doses, approximately 1 gram, is sold for $1,000.00 in Nome.
During the week of October 27th, Nome WAANT lead a multijurisdictional drug enforcement operation to bolster leads and assist in the ongoing investigative efforts. With the help of the Bethel WAANT Task Force which is comprised of Investigators from AST and the Bethel Police Department, Nome AST, Nome PD and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force, several search warrants were served which lead to the seizure of approximately 7 grams of heroin (approximately 70 doses) packaged for individual sale; the heroin seized is worth an approximate street value of $7,000.
Along with the heroin, approximately $4,300.00 in cash, drug distribution and drug use paraphernalia were seized. In total, 8 individuals were arrested and charged as a result of the investigations and operation: Felicia Larsen, age 25 of Nome, (MICS 2nd Degree x 7); Paul Benchoff Jr., age 34 of Nome, (MICS 2nd Degree x3, MICS 3rd Degree x1); Yvonne Aukon, age 31 of Wasilla (MICS 2nd Degree x2); Joel Orazio 53 of Anchorage (MICS 2nd Degree x2); Ida Booshu, age 40 of Nome (MICS 2nd Degree x2); Daniel Atkinson age 59 of Nome, (MICS 3rd Degree x3); Michael McGowan Jr., age 28 of Nome (MICS 3rd Degree x1); and Joan Miller, age 34 of Nome (Mics 2nd Degree x1) . All individuals were remanded at AMCC and held without bail pending arraignment.