University Place

Prosecutors: $375,000 cash found in suspected drug dealer's storage unit

Staff writerMarch 21, 2014 

Bremerton police said they found this cash -- more than $200,000 -- in the storage unit of a University Place man charged with dealing oxycodone.

COURTESY PHOTO — Bremerton Police Department

Police investigating a University Place man for drug dealing found $375,000 cash neatly packaged in the a storage unit he rents, court records filed this week show.

They also seized another $8,500 cash from his home along with a loaded .45-caliber handgun and more than 200 oxycodone pills, the records show.

Pierce County prosecutors have charged Howard Earl Thomas, 42, with three counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and one count each of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Not guilty pleas were entered Thursday on Thomas' behalf during his arraignment in Pierce County Superior Court.

Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered him jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Thomas came to the attention of Bremerton police when an informant told them "about a pill dealer in Tacoma," charging documents state.

Detectives arranged for the informant to purchase oxycodone from Thomas at his University Place home three times earlier this month, the charging documents show.

On Wednesday, officers from Bremerton's Special Operations Group, which includes a detective from the Poulsbo Police Department, served a search warrant on Thomas' home.

"He had approximately $5,000 bundled in $1,000 increments," charging papers state. "Howard's live-in girlfriend was found to have $3,500 bundled the same way."

The oxycodone pills and the handgun also were found in the home, as were receipts for a storage unit, court records state. Detectives then obtained a second warrant to search the storage unit.

"During the search, pill bottles, bags of rubber bands and $375,000 cash was found," the charging papers state. "The cash was bundled in the same manner as the money found earlier."

In a news release issued Friday, Bremerton police said they found $219,000 in cash at Thomas' home and storage unit. The discrepancy could not be immediately resolved by The News Tribune on Friday.

Thomas is a convicted drug dealer from Florida, prosecutors said.

Deputy prosecutor William Hurney, who charged the case, wrote in court records that he might seek sentencing enhancements against Thomas because his home is one-tenth of a mile from a school bus stop. Stiffer sentences are authorized for defendants convicted of selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school or school bus stop.

Bremerton Police Chief Steven Strachan issued a statement praising Thomas' arrest.

"I appreciate the ongoing partnership between the Bremerton and Poulsbo police departments in reducing the influx of destructive drugs like oxycodone in our communities," Strachan said.





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