At left, Roberta Draheim's booking mug after she was arrested in La Crosse in February 2018. At right, a photo from the Dane County jail, where Draheim has been held as she was prosecuted in federal court. She was sentenced Friday to 10 years and 10 months in federal prison for leading the most prolific meth distribution ring in the La Crosse afea.
MADISON — A La Crosse woman who brought a “staggering” amount of pure methamphetamine into her community was sentenced Friday in federal court to 10 years and 10 months in prison for conspiring to distribute the controlled substance.
Roberta Draheim, 51, led a six-member conspiracy by arranging the delivery of 38 shipments of methamphetamine — some of them multi-pound — from California to La Crosse between October 2016 and February 2018.
Draheim may have started as a small-time dealer, supplying her own and her friends’ addictions, but the business grew by exploiting vulnerable addicts. It also involved her daughter, Britney Masewicz, 25, who died of a drug overdose in February 2018.
Draheim was called “Mama Bear” because she oversaw all aspects of the drug operation, according to court records.
To reduce the chance of being caught, Draheim found people to receive the meth shipped via Federal Express or the U.S. Postal Service. They sold it and collected the proceeds, some of which some would be wired back to California, Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Schlipper wrote the court.
In August 2017, one source estimated that Draheim’s operation was distributing a pound of methamphetamine a week. Draheim was bringing in so much that once she found 10.5 ounces in her storage locker that she forgot was there, Schlipper wrote the court.
The exact drug quantity the conspiracy trafficked was difficult to determine, Schlipper wrote, due to the varied but increasing weight of the shipments.
“However, it is not difficult to conclude that Draheim was one of the largest methamphetamine distributors, if not the largest, in the La Crosse area during that 15-month period. The methamphetamine was extremely high quality and in demand; it was going like ‘wild fire,’” Schlipper wrote.
Local authorities intercepted a shipment in August 2017 and warned Draheim to stop selling drugs, Schlipper said. Instead, Draheim searched for another source and continued to deal methamphetamine until she was caught with more meth.
Law enforcement obtained permission to tap Draheim and co-conspirator Ryan Koenig’s phones. They recorded conversations with Mary Price, the conspiracy’s California methamphetamine connection, learning when methamphetamine would be sent and the payment arrangements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren Halverson said at Draheim’s October plea hearing.
After pleading guilty, Draheim faced a statutory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Her attorney, Joseph Bugni, contended that was sufficient punishment for her and deterrence to other would-be volume drug dealers.
“There’s nothing an 11-year sentence would accomplish that couldn’t be obtained with a 10-year sentence,” Bugni told District Judge William Conley.
Conley replied that 10 years was the floor, and he was considering a longer sentence due to the amount of drugs Draheim brought into the community, the number of people involved and her continued trafficking after initially being “caught.”
“If it wasn’t for some mitigating factors (the deaths of her husband and daughter), I’d consider a longer sentence,” Conley said.
Under the federal guidelines, Draheim faced 14 to 17.5 years in prison, which Schlipper recommended.
“There was a devastating effect from her dealing methamphetamine in the La Crosse community,” Schlipper told Conley.
Draheim has a drug conviction from 20 years ago. She received drug abuse treatment and remained sober probably until the death of her husband in 2015, which seemed to “set things off again,” Conley said.
At that time, two friends from California came for an extended visit and sent for more methamphetamine when the supply they brought ran out, the judge said.
Draheim then began using methamphetamine and found many willing to buy it from her, Conley said.
Draheim made a brief, emotional statement, which included, “I’m definitely not a danger to the community.”
“You are if you use again. After all of this, I don’t know why you wouldn’t,” said Conley, who also ordered Draheim to serve five years’ supervised release after her prison sentence.
Samuel Stanles, 26, of Onalaska, was sentenced Jan. 18 to time served and placed on four years’ supervised release in the same drug conspiracy. Koenig, 22, of La Crosse, is to be sentenced Feb. 8. Mary Price, 51, of North Hills, Calif., is to be sentenced Feb. 20. Eric Eckhoff, 24, is to be sentenced Feb. 21, and Tom Lewis is scheduled is to plead guilty on Feb. 19. Both men are from La Crosse.
Edward Dozier, 37, of Onalaska, was charged Jan. 25 with sexual assault of a child younger than 16 and exposing a child to harmful material. Dozier was arrested after a victim reported that Dozier had been sexually assaulting him or her for a few years, according to the complaint.
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