It’s a scene not often seen in Kodiak: Federal agents and deputized law-enforcement officers, guns drawn, surround a home on Hemlock Street before an entry team with loaded firearms rushes into the living room, kicks open a locked bedroom door and places three men in handcuffs.
Saturday morning, Feb. 7, was the homeowner’s birthday. She was cooking, preparing for well-wishers. Her 4-year-old daughter was in the living room, laughing while watching cartoons on television.
But nothing would be funny on that day. Instead of a celebration, that day would lead to the arrest of a person renting one of their rooms. His name is Teodoro Berdan — or Teodoro Bedran, Teodoro Bardan or Teodoro Berman.
That arrest, according to official documents, affidavit of criminal complaints and interviews, exposes how drug dealers have penetrated Kodiak Island and solidifies law-enforcement claims that “criminals in the continental U.S. are starting to flock to Alaska in order to make profits on small-quantity drug trafficking, where the reward outweighs the risk of shipping it to Alaska.”
In his Affidavit in Support of Complaint filed on Feb. 9 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin McCoy, federal Postal Inspector Justice Page said Teodoro Berdan’s arrest came after Postal Inspector Richard Kaufman, based in Guam, contacted postal inspectors in Alaska on Jan. 15 about a suspect involved in shipping methamphetamine from California to Guam.
Kaufman said he had discovered the suspect was also shipping parcels to Alaska. He said the residence on Hemlock Street n Kodiak had received parcels. Postal Inspectors then placed a mail watch on the residence.
On Feb. 5, Kaufman told postal inspectors that a priority parcel was destined for Hemlock Street and was currently in Anchorage. Inspectors went to the Anchorage Processing and Distribution Center and identified the parcel, which was addressed to “T. Bardan” from “J.L., 3516 Jarvis Ave., Newark, California.” The parcel was a small priority flat-rate box with priority tape around all the seams, weighing about 7.4 ounces. It was mailed from Pleasanton, California, on Feb. 3.
Page said the parcel contained “indicators” that — based on his training and experience — are consistent with packages known to contain contraband. Specifically, he said, according to a law-enforcement database, there is no 3516 Jarvis Avenue in Newark, California, and the USPS.com website also says there is no 3516 on Jarvis Avenue in Newark.
According to CLEAR, the law-enforcement database, there is no record for the last name Bardan associated with Hemlock Street in Kodiak, Page said.
On Feb. 6, Task Force Officer Vance Peronto, an Alaska State Trooper and member of the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit, had his trained narcotics detector dog, appropriately named Kilo, examine the parcel. Peronto said that upon examining the parcel, Kilo exhibited a change in behavior consistent with the presence of an odor of a controlled substance the canine is trained to recognize.
After executing a federal search warrant, Page said, the parcel was found to contain about 122 grams of what tests would later confirm to be meth. He said postal inspectors removed the drugs from the package, left a small sample, then replaced it with fake meth and installed an electronic alerting device and a tracking gadget.
On Feb. 7, at about 11 a.m., a postal inspector, acting as a USPS mail carrier, delivered the parcel. He knocked on the front door, and a man’s voice could be heard, while the door was still shut. The man asked who was at the door. The postal inspector said that he was the mail carrier. The man asked that the postal inspector open the door. The inspector recognized D.C., the husband of the birthday celebrant, lying on the living room couch. The homeowner said he was expecting the parcel for “Teddy Berdan,” and that he lives there. He signed for the parcel. (EDITOR'S NOTE: To protect their privacy and reputation, the Kodiak Daily Mirror is not identifying the homeowners, who are not being investigated for any wrongdoing.)
At about 11:22 a.m., a white Honda Civic with Alaska plates pulled up to the residence. The vehicle’s license plates were run by the Kodiak Police Department and came back to a “Teodoro Berdan” of the same street, but a different street number. An Asian male, later identified as Teodoro Berdan, exited the vehicle. The front door shut after he entered.
At about 11:25 a.m., the beeper tone changed, indicating that the parcel had been opened. Law enforcement rallied in front of the residence and announced their presence, Page said.
“The entry team had to forcefully kick open the door leading to Berdan’s room, as it was locked,” Page said in his affidavit.
“They came with their guns out,” the homeowner, D.C., told the Kodiak Daily Mirror. “They surrounded the place. There were so many of them and they kicked that (expletive) door.”
“My daughter ran toward me,” D.C.’s wife said, recalling that law-enforcement officers had their weapons pointed at them during the raid. “She was trembling in fear.” She claimed the agents did not present a search warrant.
D.C. said the suspect’s name was Teodoro Berman, not Berdan, and he worked in Safeway’s produce department. Page’s affidavit, perhaps inadvertently, also spelled his name three different ways.
Four longtime employees at Safeway’s produce section said they’ve never had any co-worker missing, but a Safeway Human Resources official said he might have been their employee in the liquor department.
“That must be somebody who just quit showing up,” he said.
D.C., the homeowner, said his daughter was terrified when the entry team barged in, but one of the officers carried her and even gave her a stuffed toy.
Page, in his affidavit, said Berdan was taken into a back bedroom to check his hands for the presence of Clue Spray, which was applied to the inside of the parcel to show that someone had touched the contents. Berdan’s hands, as well as the front of his sweatshirt and pants, had large amounts of the spray. All of the other occupants’ hands were searched for the presence of the spray and the tests came out negative.
When investigators interviewed D.C., he said Berdan rents the room where the parcel was found. He said Berdan has lived there for about two to three months. D.C. said he has accepted many USPS parcels for Berdan over the past couple of months at the residence, Page said in the affidavit.
Page said Berdan came home, grabbed the parcel and went into his room and locked the door.
During an interview with the Daily Mirror, D.C. corroborated Page’s affidavit. He said Berdan, who rented his room for about $125 a week, threw out some of the outer packaging from past USPS parcels in the trash and that the wrappings were still in the trash bins in front of the residence.
“Teddy’s room was always locked,” he said, calling Berdan by his nickname. “I would even sometimes yell profanities at him for not responding when I would call his name.”
D.C. said he was a good man, waiting for his social security pension to begin next year. He will be 62 this year. He said he wasn’t worried about neighbors thinking he was involved in nefarious drug deals because they know him as a retiree who worked hard at the borough’s school district for 23 years, making $22.70 per hour — not much, but clean, honest money. He said he retired in 2013, receiving his pension in lump sum, which he used to build a home with an ocean view abroad.
He said he was wondering why two Caucasian women and an Asian man were always visiting and bringing food for Berdan. They came almost every day, he said.
“I don’t know why they were always bringing him food,” he said. “They were always bringing pizza, hamburgers, Chinese food.”
And they collected D.C.’s trash, too.
D.C. said when law-enforcement agents asked him where the packages came from, he told them to check the trash.
D.C.’s wife, who was supposed to celebrate her 24th birthday the day of the raid, told investigators that Berdan has received at least three or four USPS parcels since he started renting a room. She said a lot of people came to visit him at the residence. She said Berdan has also complained to her about how some of his parcels have been late and that he was tracking them. She told him that, in Alaska, parcels are late a lot. She said Berdan would often go to the post office to pick up the USPS parcels because he was tired of waiting.
Two other men, who rented separate rooms, were also handcuffed, but were later released after being interviewed by investigators.
One of them, who said he has been renting a room in the residence during the past two months, told investigators he uses methamphetamine and that he used the narcotic as recently as the night before the raid. However, he said, he does not buy from Berdan. He also confirmed that a lot of “white people” came to visit Berdan at the residence and he thought that was weird.
He did not agree to be interviewed by the Daily Mirror, but the other renter, a cannery worker who has lived at the residence for more than a year, agreed to talk about the raid.
“I was so scared, of course, I saw a lot of guns,” he said, referring to the day Berdan was taken into custody. He said he was asleep when the agents barged in, asking him to get out of his room. He was frisked, handcuffed and told to sit.
“I have a clean record,” the renter said, explaining that he has been an Alaska resident since 1998. “I have (had) no trouble. No nothing. Not even a speckle.”
During the execution of the search warrant on Berdan, postal inspectors found in Berdan’s room a safe bolted into a desk in a nightstand. Inside the safe was a black wallet with about $1,900 in various currencies. Also inside were vacuum-sealed bags that closely matched the bags containing the meth in the parcel.
In one of those bags was a white substance that tested positive for meth. Inside the bags were smaller plastic “baggies” that Page described as “dime bags,” typically used for distributing narcotics. In the safe, with the money, were two Wells Fargo deposit receipts totaling $5,450 from December 2014. There was also a postal money order in the amount of $1,200 from November. There were also drug paraphernalia and various USPS wrappings that had similarities to the parcel sent from California.
Meth, sold by retail dealers in baggies in either powder or rock form, delivers an intense rush that makes the user stay awake for days, growing paranoid before crashing into sleep.
Page said in his affidavit that he also found four USPS mailings in the trash. They matched the same “from” address and the “to” address that was used in the tracked parcel.
In her memorandum to Kodiak City Council dated July 24, 2014, city manager Aimée Kniaziowski pitched the importance of authorizing the city to enter a memorandum of understanding between the Kodiak Police Department and the FBI to form a Safe Streets Violent Gangs Task Force.
“The impact of drug trafficking and criminal gang activity across the continental U.S. and Alaska ends up costing more than $5 billion annually and has greater indirect costs,” Kniaziowski’s memo said. “This activity affects Kodiak’s crime rates and affects schools, businesses, military and law enforcement.”
The MOU would establish a partnership in which chosen police officers would be deputized and function as task force officers and work outside city limits to investigate cases involving drugs, drug crimes and gang-related activity.
Kodiak Police Chief Ronda Wallace confirmed the task force has been formed.
In the memo Kniaziowski wrote, “Kodiak City has become a hub for drug trafficking to other far-reaching communities in Alaska.”
“Drug prices on Kodiak Island are known as some of the highest in the country,” according to the memo. It said a tenth of a gram of meth sells for about $300 on Kodiak Island, but the same amount only costs $60 or less in the Lower 48. A full gram of heroin goes for $700.
“It’s a seller’s market and Alaska is becoming widely known as a place to make a profit in drug dealing,” according to the memo.
Roni Toldanes is managing editor of the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact him at (907) 486-3227.