The Rise And Fall Of A Young Drug Kingpin In Boise

Dec 6, 2017

An Illustration of Austin Serb for Pacific Standard magazine.
Credit Oliver Barrett / Pacific Standard

Late last month, the magazine Pacific Standard published a profile entitled, "King of Boise, The Life and Times of a Teenage Oxycodone Dealer."

It follows a young man from Boise named Austin Serb from his teens to his early twenties. At one point, he was one of the biggest illegal dealers of opioids in the Treasure Valley – moving $7 million dollars of pills in three years.

He became involved in drug-dealing as a young teenager, first with marijuana and later with prescription pain-killers. 

Tom Michael spoke with Joe Eaton, who wrote the article and who teaches journalism at the University of Montana. Listen to the interview here.

"The market was huge in Boise," said Eaton, who described how the medical industry unwittingly helped to stimulate demand for opiates, which dealers like Serb exploited. He described how Serb's hip-hop style contrasted with the look of Boise's outdoorsy youth, but in other ways, he was blended in as a typical teenager.

Eaton credits the Boise Police Department for their dogged pursuit of Serb, particularly after they brought in the Drug Enforcement Agency to monitor Serb's network of dealers.

Eaton detailed Serb's rise and his downfall, with his gradual addiction to his own product.

"He was making millions," said Eaton, "but by the end of it, he had nothing." Even after the regional black market in oxycontin was diminished, new scourges like heroin use rose up to take its place.

Eaton concluded asking Austin Serb what he thought of the damage he wrought. Eaton added that many experts, including local law enforcement, believe the problem ought to be addressed as a public health crisis.

Find Tom Michael on Twitter @tom2michael

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