The undercover informant used to nab a man in a large-scale prescription drug trafficking sting in Cowlitz County last August has admitted she lied to and tricked police about the case and even had her husband pose as a drug dealer.
Tina Rivard, 40, of Kalama, pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to obstructing justice and conspiring to obstruct an official criminal proceeding. According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Rivard fed police false information last spring and summer that led to the arrest of suspected prescription drug dealer Bo Jeremy Storedahl of Kelso.
In attempts to reduce her punishment for prescription forgery, Rivard had agreed to become an informant and help police catch drug dealers.
But instead of calling Storedahl for drugs during the investigation, Rivard called her husband, Ryan Rivard, who pretended to be Storedahl.
Under police surveillance, Tina Rivards also made a visit to Storedahl's home, where Ryan Rivard slipped 100 oxycodone pills to his wife. She then told police that Storedahl sold her the drugs for the $4,000 that narcotics agents had given her, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Rivard's false information was the only apparently solid evidence prosecutors had to show that Storedahl was trafficking prescription medications, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Friedman said Friday.
"This meant all those charges were ill-based," Friedman said. "You've got to catch somebody right."
Tina Rivard now faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Her sentencing is scheduled for March 28.
Storedahl, then 21, was arrested on two counts of distribution of oxycodone and three counts of use of a telephone to facilitate a drug crime.
Rivard's false evidence torpedoes part of the case against Storedahl — the trafficking part. However, Storedahl pleaded in federal court Nov. 16 to unlawful possession of oxycodone, a misdemeanor. He is awaiting sentencing.
Friedman said Storedahl's drug possession charge was based on other information gathered by authorities, not by Rivard.
Storedahl was arrested Aug. 8 at his family's business, Storedahl & Sons, a Kelso rock crushing company. Authorities said Storedahl, a former prom king and standout baseball pitcher at Kalama High School, was found with four OxyContin pills upon arrest.
A receptionist at Storedahl & Sons said on Friday that the family had no comment regarding news that Rivard fabricated evidence.
Storedahl was indicted as part of a coordinated law enforcement effort to address a growing problem of prescription drug abuse in Southwest Washington. The Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 26 people in the crackdown.
The other six defendants who faced federal drug charges pleaded guilty in August, September and October.
"It's very, very unusual, and very disappointing to all those who worked on these cases," Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said of Rivard's actions.
Friedman, who interviewed Rivard after authorities suspected she had lied, said her motive to fib was not based on animosity toward Storedahl.
"She was doing this simply to help herself," he said, adding that informants often receive credit based on the amount of criminals they catch.
Rivard also helped nab another suspect in the August drug trafficking sting, and that suspect has since plead guilty. Friedman said Rivard did not fabricate information in that case.
Friedman said he could not comment on whether charges would be filed against Ryan Rivard.
Police working with Rivard to investigate Storedahl were careful to dial his number before handing the phone to Rivard, but she pushed some buttons at the last minute that switched the call to her husband, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"It's a very good lesson for law enforcement and for all of us to remember that this stuff is always possible," Friedman said. "Anybody can be tricked despite trying to be careful. … They were simply a little bamboozled."