WEST PALM BEACH — Federal agents eyed the package of white powder traveling to Boca Raton from Cincinnati and took note of the woman waiting to collect it. Petite, and old enough to be their grandmother, she drove it home in the trunk of her car.
The package was different from the 90 or so others like it she had received before. In addition to 1.4 grams of Methaqualone packed neatly inside, it contained a small tracker that led Homeland Security straight to 70-year-old Linda Horn’s door.
When she wasn’t caring for her 94-year-old mother, the septuagenarian was weighing out Quaalude capsules — some to take herself, and others to sell to associates she described as “successful people in her community.” Horn made more than $1.3 million from the decade-long drug deals and faced up to 20 years in prison for the package investigators confiscated in 2021.
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She wept in a federal courtroom Thursday and begged the judge for mercy. U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg, who was still a child when Quaaludes became the drug of choice at discos and parties across the U.S., obliged.
Rosenberg sentenced Horn to three years of probation and no prison time, exactly as the prosecutor and Horn’s defense attorney recommended. Horn’s age and remorse, as well as her cooperation with investigators and the $1.3 million in profit she handed over, earned her the favorable deal.
It was a win for Horn and one she shared with attorney Michael Gottlieb alone. The courtroom gallery behind them was empty. Her husband, too nervous to come in, waited in a car outside.
“I wish you well, Mrs. Horn,” Rosenberg told her. “Put this behind you.”
Horn nodded, a crumpled tissue in hand.
Substance abuse began in college and continued for 50 years
Linda Horn began using Quaaludes long before she began selling them. Though she said little about how she became ensnared in the international drug trade, court filings written by Horn’s lawyer tell a story that begins in the early 1970s.
The Detroit native began experimenting with alcohol, marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms and LSD during her sophomore year of college, Gottlieb wrote. She took her first Quaalude around the same time lawmakers made recreational use of the drug illegal nationwide.
Once heralded as a less addictive sleeping pill, Methaqualone persisted as the drug of choice for partygoers in search of a relaxed, drunken euphoria between the ’70s and ’80s. Horn’s first Quaalude was a “landmark moment in her life,” Gottlieb told the judge.
It eased her anxiety and made the “fast crowd” on her college campus more tolerable and attractive, the attorney said. She abandoned the marijuana and psychedelics and began taking the sedative routinely, pausing only during the pregnancies of her three children with her husband, Howard.
Gottlieb described Howard Horn as a commodities broker with fleeting success. He led a “fast and glamorous lifestyle,” the attorney said, and he and Horn formed a troubled, volatile relationship. Horn blamed the relationship as much as her substance abuse for the “devastating” turn her life has taken.
Gottlieb said the Horns’ children, traumatized by their upbringing, cut ties with both parents. Linda and Howard divorced 16 years into their marriage and remarried in 2016 in hopes that it would end their children’s estrangement. It didn’t.
Amid the broken and mended relationships that kept her adult life in flux, one thing remained constant: Quaaludes.
Horn worked with dealer in Portugal to supply social circle
Horn took on the role of Methaqualone dealer in 2012 when the person who sold it to her social circle died, Gottlieb wrote. Horn said she jumped on the opportunity to support herself, her children and her aging mother, whose husband died of bone and prostate cancer that same year.
She traveled to Jamaica in search of a supplier and connected with one from Cameroon, who introduced her to another in Portugal. The Portuguese supplier shipped small bags of Methaqualone with invoices that read “research samples” to Horn, who sold the drug to friends and family in 2014 to the tune of $28,000. The total grew year after year.
By the time investigators raided the 5,500-square-foot home she shares with her mother just days before Thanksgiving, the net proceeds exceeded $1.3 million.
Federal agents found the package of Methaqualone in a bathtub and handcuffed Horn and her husband. Horn’s mother was present during the 2021 raid but has since been “shielded from the reality of that day” by her daughter, Gottlieb said.
Horn’s nonprison penalty will likely aid those efforts.
During her probation, Horn must perform community service, undergo mental health and substance abuse evaluations and complete any recommended treatments, according to the terms of her sentence.
“I’m so very glad to be free of a life lived in shadows and begin to make amends,” Horn told the judge Thursday. “I’m so very sorry.”
Gottlieb told the judge Horn plans to continue caring for her mother and husband while living a “quiet, peaceful and lawful life.” He and Horn declined to comment.
Hannah Phillips is a journalist covering public safety and criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Boca Raton woman, 70, sentenced for selling $1M worth of quaaludes
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