Wyoming Federal Judge Sentences Drug Dealer
Former Cheyenne resident Christopher Koegl was injured while in the military and used prescription drugs for the pain.
When Koegl could no longer obtain them, he turned to heroin, first for himself and then to distribute to others in Wyoming from sources in northern Colorado.
And Thermopolis resident Alexander Herdt died of an overdose from heroin supplied by one of Koegl's distributors in June 2014, which launched the investigation that led to the indictment of Koegl and three others.
Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl sentenced Koegl to 10 years imprisonment and five years probation on one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin.
A second count of distributing heroin resulting in death was dismissed as part of the plea agreement. That count would have carried a minimum 20-year sentence.
"This is a tragic event for everyone involved," Skavdahl said after handing down the sentence. "Mr. Herdt will never get to spend any time with this family."
Koegl, 45, now lives in Virginia and has three daughters. The judge said he will be able to be with his family a decade from now, after receiving the treatment and help he needs in prison.
During the half-hour sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hambrick said the 10-year sentence was warranted in light of the nationwide opioid epidemic that has made the news recently. In 2014, more than 10,000 people died from heroin overdoses, she said.
A harsh sentence for Koegl will send a message that Wyoming will harshly deal with heron dealers, Hambrick added.
Defense attorney Scott Olheiser recounted how Koegl became and addict because of his injury in the military. Koegl was not a recreational user, but had a predilection toward addiction, Olheiser said.
Koegl said he didn't know about Herdt's death until his arrest. "I extend my deepest condolences to the Herdt family."
He hopes his time in prison will help him treat his addiction, gain an education and find personal peace, he added.
Koegl, a former postal worker, was convicted last year of collecting $31,000 in health care benefits. The discovery of heroin at his house coincided with the prosecution of the fraud case.
In handing down the sentence, Skavdahl acknowledged the addiction issues, but said Koegl then began dealing and was higher in the conspiracy than the other defendants in the case.
Last month, the judge sentenced Justin Dvorak, 30, of Bar Nunn, Darrell Demas, 27, of Casper, and Justin Dix, 36. Dvorak received two years of imprisonment, and Demas and Dix each received four years of imprisonment. All defendants will serve three years of probation after their release. They also paid fees and restitution.