Unalaska police may have reached a turning point in a long investigation into drug sales. Two people are in custody after a stockpile was discovered at the home — and business — they both share.
Unalaska’s police chief, Jamie Sunderland, says he can’t remember a bigger bust.
Sunderland: “Easily over a half a million dollars worth of drugs found so far, and the search is continuing.”
It’s turned up staggering quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine — more than two pounds each — plus more than a half-pound of marijuana, and two kinds of heroin.
Sunderland: “There’s certainly more evidence out there and clues to be found, but we feel that we have found a major player in this enterprise here.”
Thu McConnell and Tam Nguyen are both 45 years old. Their current relationship is unclear, but they have raised a family together. And they’ve definitely gone into business in Unalaska – opening a cab company, a tanning salon, and a variety store called Dutch Harbor Asia.
Police say that store is where Tam Nguyen was on May 24 when he allegedly sold two packets of heroin.
The order for the drugs came from a criminal informant who agreed to buy heroin from his sources in the community, to try and get leniency on his own charges.
Officers arrested Nguyen shortly after the alleged drug deal. They got warrants to search through the Dutch Harbor Asia store the same day.
Along with the regular inventory — snacks, jewelry, movies — police say they found digital scales and a loaded semiautomatic handgun.
They also say there were 55 individually wrapped packets of heroin, cocaine, and meth. Based on that, officers got warrants to search Nguyen and McConnell’s house — and arrest warrants, to put them in jail.
Now, the pair is facing multiple felony charges for allegedly possessing drugs with the intent to distribute them in the community.
Illegal drug sales are always a target for police action. But Unalaska’s been cracking down since last fall.
That’s when police orchestrated the first of two big sweeps — arresting up to nine people at one time. At least two dozen have been taken into custody and charged since then.
Sunderland, the police chief, says officers have gotten tips about the operators of Dutch Harbor Asia in the process.
But to Del Huber, they were model tenants. Huber is the property manager at the strip mall where Dutch Harbor Asia is located.
Huber: “It was a smooth relationship. Their business was pretty much smooth. We never had no problems with anything.”
Huber says he did some renovations in the building and helped fix up the Dutch Harbor Asia storefront. The operators seemed happy, he says. They even agreed to sign a longer lease.
But lately, they had been trying to get out of the business. Thu McConnell posted it for sale on a Facebook message board in January – even cutting the price of Dutch Harbor Asia to attract a buyer.
Soon after that, she listed her house for sale.
Huber, the property manager, says he doesn’t know what’s going to happen now that the pair is in jail.
Huber: “As of right now, it’s totally up in the air. All we can do is just take care the rest of the tenants in the [Dutch Harbor] Mall and make sure everything’s upkept — and also make sure that Dutch Harbor Asia stays secure.”
That means making sure customers respect the sign in the window that says the business is closed.