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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Arizona Couple sentenced three years each to Federal Prison in selling Opium Poppy

INDIANAPOLIS- Todd Anderson, age 60, and Carolyn Anderson, age 58, of Flagstaff, Arizona, have each been sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to distribution of opium poppy and morphine.

According to court documents, from June 2019, through August 2020, the Andersons packaged and shipped hundreds of pounds of poppy straw (dried opium poppy) to Indiana and California for re-distribution by others. The pair used their four businesses, registered in Arizona, to illegally import the poppy from the United Kingdom. Poppy Straw is a Schedule II Controlled Substance that can result in death if improperly ingested. It is highly addictive and can be abused for its opioid effects. An active ingredient in poppy straw is morphine, a powerful opioid that is also a Schedule II controlled substance.

The Anderson’s operated a website that offered “dried poppy pods” for sale in various quantities. Neither Todd or Carolyn, nor their businesses, were registered importers with the DEA to sell any controlled substances, as required by law. There are over a hundred types of poppy plants, but the variety unlawfully imported and sold by Todd and Carolyn Anderson is the only variety designated as a controlled substance. The dried poppy pods and other parts of the plant are often ground up and steeped in hot water to make “poppy tea” containing high amounts of morphine.

On multiple occasions, Carolyn Anderson arranged, via text message, for individuals in Indianapolis and Noblesville to purchase anywhere from 10 to 50 pounds of poppy straw for $125 per pound. The pair instructed buyers to describe their business to authorities as “an Online dried floral business” and labeled packages as containing “dried decorations.”

On August 13, 2020, Todd and Carolyn were arrested at their property in Arizona, where local law enforcement officers recovered 499 kilograms of poppy straw—approximately one half a metric ton. In addition to the poppy straw at their property, agents seized approximately 40 additional kilograms of poppy straw that the Andersons shipped to customers in Indiana and elsewhere.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, Zachary A. Myers, Michael Gannon, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Indianapolis Field Office, and Rodney Hopkins, Postal Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Detroit Division made the announcement.

“Illegal opioid abuse and substance use disorders have driven epidemic levels of overdoses and other traumas suffered by our families, friends, and neighbors,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, Zachary A. Myers. “The federal prison sentences imposed against these defendants demonstrate that interstate and international drug trafficking schemes carry serious criminal consequences. Our federal prosecutors, along with our outstanding partners in the DEA and USPIS, are committed to making the public safer through investigation and prosecution of those who push dangerous drugs into our communities in search of illicit profits.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) investigated this case. The sentences were imposed by U.S. District Court Chief Judge, Tanya Walton Pratt. Judge Pratt also ordered that the two defendants be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for three years following their release from federal prison and ordered each defendant to pay a $15,000 fine. U.S. Attorney Myers thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Bradley P. Shepard and William L. McCoskey, who prosecuted this case. This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

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