By CJ Baker
Powell Tribune Via Wyoming News Exchange 

Feds to prosecute Powell woman for big fentanyl, meth shipment

 

April 6, 2023



POWELL — Federal prosecutors have taken over the case against a Powell woman who allegedly received substantial quantities of fentanyl and meth in the mail — and they say she wasn’t the only person involved.

Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming charged Victoria A. Zupko with felony counts of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and meth and of unlawfully using the U.S. Postal Service to facilitate a felony drug offense.

Zupko was arrested on March 21, soon after she picked up a package from her doorstep and brought it inside. Authorities say that when the package was shipped to Zupko from Arizona, it contained about 10,000 fentanyl-laced pills and 1 pound of meth; however, they intercepted the package and removed the suspected narcotics before delivering it to her door on Springhill Road.

When officers searched her home, they reportedly found Zupko had other fentanyl pills in her pockets and elsewhere in the house — including a couple pills on the floor and dozens of others in spots that would have been accessible to her three children.

Fentanyl can be deadly in even small quantities and after being taken into custody, Zupko expressed gratitude to those who arrested her.

In court, she said they had helped save her children’s lives and that she wants to receive substance abuse treatment.

Zupko was initially charged with three felony counts at the state level, which alleged she endangered her three children by exposing them to fentanyl and/or meth.

However, the Park County Attorney’s Office plans to drop that case so as not to interfere with the one now being brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“We’d like her [Zupko] to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by the feds,” Deputy Park County Attorney Laura Newton said at a Thursday hearing in Park County Circuit Court. If the federal case is unsuccessful, “we’ll be, of course, bringing back these serious child endangerment charges,” Newton said.

Documents filed in federal court last week allege it wasn’t the first time that a substantial amount of pills had been shipped to Zupko’s home — and that other, unnamed people had sold them.

Zupko reportedly told authorities that she planned to split the March 21 shipment with “other subjects,” expecting to receive 2,000 to 2,500 of the roughly 10,000 pills.

Charging documents indicate the sales were lucrative: Zupko allegedly said she had arranged to pay $2,500 for her share of the fentanyl — or $1 to $1.50 per pill — and that she generally resold them for $60 a piece; Zupko is quoted as saying she made “over $100,000” from selling fentanyl pills last year.

It remains unclear as to what exactly triggered the investigation.

Thursday’s complaint from federal prosecutors says only that the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation “became aware of illegal narcotics being sold” from Zupko’s home in November. DCI agents “suspected some of the illegal narcotics were being sent through the U.S. Mail,” Postal Inspector R.J. Fergon wrote in support of the complaint, and postal records showed parcels were being shipped to the Springhill Road address “from known drug source areas, Arizona and California.”

In the months that followed, “inspectors continued to watch the address,” Fergon wrote.

For reasons not laid out in court records, authorities apparently believed there were drugs inside a package that was sent from the Phoenix area to Zupko’s residence in mid-March. A postal inspector pulled the package aside in Casper on March 14 and presented it to a Casper Police Department K-9, which alerted to the presence of narcotics.

Authorities then got a search warrant to open the package.

Inside, they reportedly found 1,068 grams — approximately 10,000 pills — of suspected counterfeit oxycodone laced with fentanyl, plus 462 grams (just over 1 pound) of meth. Given current street values for the drugs — $60 per pill and $100 per gram of meth — they could have been worth roughly $650,000.

The same day authorities conducted their search, Zupko reportedly called a postal supervisor in Casper and asked what was going on with her package, but they kept her in the dark about the investigation.

Agent Fergon then delivered the package on the morning of March 21, at a time when only Zupko and her youngest child, a 4-year-old, were home.

Zupko retrieved it around 12:40 p.m. and officers with DCI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency entered the home minutes later, assisted by Powell Police.

Zupko “was observed in the proximity of a partially consumed fentanyl pill and other drug paraphernalia,” while the child was in the general area, Fergon wrote.

All three of her children have since been placed with another family member, according to court testimony and documents.

In an interview following her arrest, Zupko allegedly told authorities that two other shipments had previously been sent to the home. One contained 6,000 to 8,000 fentanyl pills, she reportedly estimated, while the other contained a pound of meth and 4,000 fentanyl pills.

“Zupko advised that those narcotics were distributed by another subject,” Agent Fergon wrote.

There is no timeframe listed for when the previous packages were sent to the residence and the complaint describes the alleged conspiracy as “beginning at an unknown time.”

In the state-level case, Park County Circuit Court Judge Joey Darrah initially set Zupko’s bond at $175,000 cash or surety, meaning it could be posted in cash or by hiring a bail bondsman for 10% of that amount ($17,500). Zupko and her privately retained defense attorney, Tim Blatt, planned to ask the judge to lower the bond amount at Thursday’s hearing.

However, it became a moot issue when federal authorities placed a hold on her.

At the end of the abbreviated hearing, Judge Darrah took a moment to wish Zupko luck.

“Sounds to me like you’ve got some things you have to deal with,” Darrah said, “And I know you were thankful you got arrested and I hope you still have that same attitude and you get the help that you need, so at some point, you can get on with your life and you can be a mother again.”

“Exactly,” Zupko responded, thanking the judge.

She was transferred from the Park County Detention Center and into federal custody on Friday. A detention hearing is set for Wednesday before a federal magistrate.

In a filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Elmore said his office plans to ask that Zupko remain in custody while the case is pending. Elmore cited a “serious risk” the defendant would flee and concerns about public safety.

In the meantime, DCI and the postal service say they’re continuing to investigate the case.

This story was published on April 4, 2023.

 
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