“Pied Piper” of mushroom sales ring gets four years

A 62-year-old Hoquiam man was sentenced to four years in prison over what a federal judge called his role as the “Pied Piper” in a ring of hallucinogenic mushroom cultivators and dealers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Michael J. Maki was sentenced Nov. 5 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy, cultivation and distribution involving the illegal mushrooms in May of this year. In addition to his prison time, Maki will also forfeit to the federal government his home and rural compound in Grays Harbor County where he personally cultivated the illegal mushrooms.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating the ring in October 2009, intercepting calls to Maki’s cell phone. The wiretap and other evidence led to search warrants executed at four mushroom cultivation sites, including Maki’s home outside Hoquiam, and the arrest of six people, including Maki’s adult son.

U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton called Maki’s involvement of his son “despicable,” and handed down a harsher sentence for him in recognition of his leadership role.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Parrent prosecuted the case, showing Maki’s group sold or brokered the sale of hundreds of pounds of dried mushrooms, which represent hundreds of thousands of doses. On the day Maki was arrested, he had another 60 pounds of mushrooms in four duffel bags, which were to be sold for $30,000.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by DEA Offices in Seattle, Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore.; the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office; the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office; the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office; the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office; the Washington State Patrol; the Sandy, Utah, Police Department; and the Washington County, Ore., Sheriff’s Office.