Bellingham man sentenced to 8 years for sending heroin to Alaska

A Bellingham man who used couriers to distribute heroin in Alaska has been sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Peter M. Thornton, 59, had been involved in distributing heroin in Fairbanks, Alaska, since as early as 2008, documents filed in U.S. District Court in Alaska say.

Federal agents discovered in 2011 that Thornton had been transporting heroin to Fairbanks from his Bellingham residence either through the mail or by using a courier. Thornton would buy tickets for the couriers to fly to Alaska and deposit the money made from heroin sales into various bank accounts — a total of $300,000 over the course of three years, court documents say.

Agents searched Thornton’s Bellingham residence on March 27, 2014, after they discovered Thornton had delivered 110 grams of heroin to someone in Fairbanks just three days earlier. They seized $20,000 cash and a small amount of heroin in his home. Court documents indicate Thornton paid his source $15,000 per pound of heroin.

He pleaded guilty to charges of laundering money and distributing one kilogram or more of heroin.

Thornton’s brothers and sisters sent the judge letters earlier this month asking for him to be sent to rehab instead of prison. They described him as a nonviolent person who fell into drugs at a young age and has been battling addiction his whole life.

“Through the eyes of the law Pete is a criminal who deserves to be punished,” wrote his son, Chad Thornton. “Through my eyes and those who know him, he doesn’t deserve even a small percentage of the suffering he has already endured.”

Peter Thornton was sentenced earlier this month to 104 months in prison followed by five years probation.