Thurston man sentenced for trafficking fentanyl while armed, smuggling it into a jail

A federal judge sentenced a 37-year-old Thurston County man Wednesday to six and half years in prison for trafficking fentanyl last year.

Samuel Wesley Mulkey was arrested in Longview on Jan. 21, 2022, as he drove back from California with a load of powdered fentanyl and two handguns, according to court records. Fentanyl is an exceptionally potent synthetic opioid that’s been linked to a trend in overdose deaths in Thurston County and throughout the country.

Chief U.S. District Judge David G. Estudillo delivered his sentence in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman announced in a Wednesday news release. At the hearing, Estudillo reportedly stressed the severity of Mulkey’s actions.

“It’s clear that fentanyl is something that is wreaking havoc on our community,” Estudillo said. “The amounts you were bringing in from California says something about you — you are not a common street dealer. These are serious amounts. ... When you couple that with a firearm, that is a bad mixture, and someone is going to get hurt. Sometimes innocent people.”

Mulkey pleaded guilty in May to one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense.

The arrest occurred amid an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the Thurston County Narcotics Taskforce, which includes the Sheriff’s Office.

Court records say law enforcement used a phone tracking warrant to monitor Mulkey’s travel to and from Oakland, California where he picked up additional fentanyl.

Investigators found 718.4 grams of fentanyl in one bag and 16.4 grams in a backpack as well as two loaded firearms, according to court records.

Mulkey was booked into the Cowlitz County jail following his arrest. That same day, another incarcerated person overdosed on fentanyl. The victim worked in the laundry and was found unresponsive and cold with blue lips, according to court records.

Jail personnel reportedly administered three doses of Narcan, a brand name for naloxone, which is designed to quickly reverse an opioid overdose, before the victim was revived.

Video footage from the jail showed Mulkey smuggling a plastic bundle of powdered fentanyl into the jail, per court records. He reportedly hid it during a strip search and then passed it to laundry personnel in a blanket before taking a shower.

Court records say Mulkey also had fentanyl sewn into his hoodie and the pockets of his jeans when he arrived at the jail.

Mulkey was released on bond pending trial and later went to an inpatient treatment center, but court records say he was remanded to custody in August after using opioids multiple times and violating his conditions of release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hillary Stuart prosecuted the case and asked the court for an eight-year prison sentence. In a memorandum sent to the court, Stuart said Mulkey knew of the “addictive and harmful nature” of fentanyl yet still chose to supply it to the community.

“He chose to drive to California and import it to Washington,” Stuart. “He chose to supply it in prison, where it caused an inmate to stop breathing and nearly die. Even after his arrest, the defendant chose to continue to use fentanyl and associate with people who used fentanyl.”