Bridal shop owner to be sentenced for dealing meth

Storefront at 213 Seward Street

Dark storefront at 213 Seward Street has been emptied of inventory and fixtures, and it is awaiting a new tenant. Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO News

A downtown Juneau business owner who was arrested for selling drugs changed her plea in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

Gema G. Thomas, 52, was charged last October with a single count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Thomas is the owner and operator of Peer Amid Beads and Southeast Artworks, and was the owner of the Bridal Gowns, Formal Wear, and Tuxedo Rentals that used to operate at 213 Seward Street.

Under terms of a plea agreement signed in late September (just days before she was formally charged), Thomas could be sentenced to a range of ten years to life imprisonment, a maximum of a $10,000,000 fine, and minimum of five-years of supervised release.

Thomas and her husband Michael Paul Thomas also forfeit all property and inventory of the bridal gown shop.

Prosecutors alleged that Thomas used $15,000 from the sale of over 158.41 grams of meth to pay for the bridal and tux shop’s inventory and operating costs. Court documents say that Thomas contacted a source in Washington state and arranged for delivery of six ounces (about 170 grams) of meth in early July 2012. Thomas deposited $6,020 into the account of the source. According to the facts of the crime as detailed in the plea agreement, the drugs arrived within four days by U.S.P.S. Express Mail at a Mendenhall Post Office box assigned to Thomas’ business Peer Amid Beads. Thomas took the package home and opened it. She put the package in her garage and left the door ajar so that an acquaintance on a motorcycle, identified as Darrell W. Dawson, could pick it up. Dawson already possessed 4.8 grams of meth from a previous buy made by Thomas. He also paid her $15,000 for the previous batch of drugs ‘fronted’ by Thomas.

According to an affadavit filed in July by a postal inspector in the Dawson case, the package was intercepted and the drugs were tested before a controlled delivery was made. A person identified only as Cooperating Witness 1 picked up the package and took it home. Later that night, an electronic monitoring device inserted in the package changed tone, indicating that it had been opened. Investigators arrived and detained another person, identified as Coconspirator 1, in the garage of the home. Most of the drugs hidden inside a set of sugar shakers in the package were removed, and Dawson was contacted to pick up the drugs. Officers say Dawson tried to flee inside the residence when he was confronted, but he was ultimately arrested.

By entering into a plea agreement for a felony count of conspiracy to distribute or possessing with intent to distribute methamphetamine, Thomas waives her right to a trial by jury and waives her right to appeal the conviction. But U.S. attorneys say they will not prosecute Thomas for any other potential offense arising out of the current investigation unless her conviction or sentence is vacated, reversed, modified, or set aside.

Thomas is due to be sentenced on March 8th.

Dawson awaits sentencing on a charge of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. He will likely forfeit the Honda CVR 1000 motorcycle used in the attempted pick-up.