Salem man charged with intending to sell fentanyl, possessing stolen guns

A Salem man faces federal charges alleging he intended to sell fentanyl and heroin after drug enforcement agents seized thousands of fake oxycodone pills, seven pounds of meth and two stolen handguns from his car and home, according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors charged Kelley R. Kaighin, 63, March 2 in Portland U.S. District Court with possession of fentanyl and heroin with intent to distribute both, possession of a firearm as part of a drug trafficking crime and possessing a firearm as a felon, according to court records.

Around noon on Wednesday, Jan. 18, agents and officers of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency set up surveillance near Kaighin’s Salem home on South Madrona Avenue.

They saw Kaighin leave through his garage around three hours later, open the driver’s side of a Chevrolet Spark and reach to the passenger side as if he was placing something near the seat, according to an affidavit from Samuel Landis, a special agent in the Salem office of the DEA.

Agents followed Kaighin when he left, having arranged for a Salem Department officer to conduct a traffic stop on the car. 

The federal agency made that arrangement based on Kaighin’s history of criminal convictions including violent offenses dating back to 1986, when he shot and injured an officer in Salem during an encounter with police, according to Landis’ affidavit. 

Agents found the car parked in front of a driveway minutes later, and a Salem police sergeant stopped Kaighin and “removed him from the vehicle,” the report said.

The agents saw the stock of a gun in an open bag on the floorboard of the car. They also seized two plastic baggies from his pocket containing a white powdery substance, which were field-tested and showed presumptive positive results for cocaine and fentanyl.

Agents found a backpack in the car which had inside about 3 kilograms of suspected heroin, 1,500 suspected fake oxycodone tablets believed to be manufactured with fentanyl, and 65 grams of suspected ecstasy. They also found a stolen, unloaded handgun from the same backpack.

When agents searched Kaighin’s home, they found around 5,500 suspected fake oxycodone tablets believed to be laced with fentanyl, 496 grams of suspected fentanyl powder, 165 grams of suspected heroin, 50 grams of suspected ecstasy and 1,107 grams of marijuana.

They also found a stolen, unloaded gun in a safe.

Between larger dealers, a kilogram of heroin can sell for between $25,000 to $30,000 a kilogram, according to the affidavit. That means agents seized between roughly $79,100 and $95,000 worth of heroin.

In total, they seized over 1,150.4 grams of suspected fentanyl from Kaighin.

As recently as 2018, Kaighin was a glazier for All Star Glass in Salem, according to reporting from the Daily Journal of Commerce.

Court records show he went nearly eight years without a criminal conviction until 2019, when he pleaded no contest in Marion County Circuit Court to strangulation.

Kaighin is one of at least three people arrested by federal and local authorities this year who are now facing fentanyl trafficking charges.

The estimated lethal dose of fentanyl is about 2 milligrams, according to a July 22 Salem police affidavit.

Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. In 2021, over 71,200 Americans died from overdoses caused by synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl. That is a 23% increase from 2020, when there were around 57,800, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kaighin’s arrest in January came three weeks before a Marion County grand jury indicted another Salem man, 39-year-old Christopher W. Walker, on charges of, attempted delivery of fentanyl, attempted unlawful delivery of methamphetamine and possessing a firearm as a felon. Court proceedings are scheduled for March 22.

Walker has criminal convictions as early as 2003 including unlawful delivery of methamphetamine, burglary and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.