According to federal prosecutors, when Ramona Rigney wasn't tending bar at Papa's Pub and Grill in White Center, she was busy selling copious amounts of crack. And unfortunately for her, one of her customers included an informant for the King County Sheriff's Office. She and her boyfriend Wesley Armstrong are now charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine base, and being felons in possession of firearms.
Karina Yang, another bartender at Papa's Pub, says the feds left the business empty-handed. "They came in at noon when there were like five people in the bar," Yang says. "Nothing was found and whoever was arrested they ended up letting them go."
But according to court documents filed last month in Western Washington federal court, a search of Rigney and Armstrong's home turned up a sawed-off shotgun and a pistol hidden underneath the couple's mattress, along with 2.6 grams of crack in Rigney's purse.
King County Sheriffs began investigating Rigney in May, court documents say, after a paid informant tipped them off to her. When police did a background check, they discovered that Rigney has "a significant criminal history," including felony convictions for assault, robbery and drug dealing. She allegedly goes by at least 24 different aliases, but the Sheriff's source knew her simply as Mona.
Image Source Ramona Rigney
On August 19, the Sheriffs had their informant call Rigney and arrange a deal for a half-ounce of crack. The first buy went off without a hitch, and six days later the informant was on the phone again placing an order for another quarter-ounce. This time Rigney brought along her new boyfriend, identified by the informant as Armstrong.
The next day, August 26, Rigney allegedly called her new client and offered to sell him a .44 caliber revolver. The three met in a parking lot in White Center, court documents say, where Armstrong delivered the gun wrapped in a diaper and stuffed in a Crown Royal bag. At the same time, Rigney also allegedly sold the informant another quarter-ounce of crack. Two more controlled buys in September netted another half-ounce. Then, on September 17 police raided, their apartment.
Court documents say Rigney admitted to selling an ounce of crack per week, claimed the guns belonged to Armstrong, and said that he bought the .44 revolver off the street for $40 cash, plus $100 worth of rocks. She told police that "since she did not want the guns around her children, they kept the gun outside in the barbecue."
Image Source Wesley Armstrong
Police asked Armstrong if he was involved in Rigney's crack business. "Hell no," he allegedly replied, "I don't have anything to do with selling drugs." The court documents note that Armstrong was strip-searched and, "a small amount of cocaine was located in his anus."
Rigney has pleaded not guilty to 12 felony counts. A spokesperson for the Western Washington United States Attorney's Office confirms that she was a Papa's Pub employee at the time of her arrest. Recently released pending trial, Rigney is being charged as an Armed Career Criminal, which carries a minimum 15-year sentence if she is convicted.
Yang, the Papa's Pub bartender, says "Mona" occasionally worked the night shift at the bar but took time off recently for maternity leave. Yang praises King County for tapping reserve funds to restore the Sheriff's "storefront office" nearby in White Center, but complains that the ATF-led sweep was unnecessary in light of recent efforts by management to clean up the place.
"We just installed a whole bunch of cameras," Yang tells Seattle Weekly. "But people are going to deal drugs, there's nothing we can do about that. Every time something does happen and we do report it to the police, it seems like they want to make bar owners responsible...It's about time they did a sweep like this [in White Center] but it's b.s. they want to put it on the bar owners."
Brian Smith, spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, says the agency is awaiting additional information from law-enforcement officials about any criminal activity connected to Papa's Pub before deciding whether the bar will face sanctions. But Smith also says the bar was recently cited a third time for selling alcohol to a minor and will likely face a 30-day suspension of its liquor license.