PHOENIX - An Arizona man was sentenced to more than 37 years in prison Friday for the 2001 killing of a police informant who revealed details of a botched plot to steal human growth hormone from a FedEx truck outside a Phoenix pharmacy.
Mikhail Drachev, 31, who pleaded guilty in May, received the maximum sentence of 22 years for second-degree murder in the slaying of Konstantin Simberg, 21. He was also ordered to serve 15 1/2 years for kidnapping and aggravated assault.
Drachev will likely get credit for the last several years spent in jails in Canada and in Arizona. His defense attorneys had argued for a more lenient sentence because he was 18 at the time of the killing and has tried to better himself while he's been behind bars.
"Perhaps you can continue to do something positive while in the Department of Corrections," said Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Reinstein.
Drachev was the last person to be convicted in the case. He fled the country and lived as a fugitive in Canada for six years before by a girlfriend turned him in, in 2007. Drachev fought extradition for more than three years before he was finally brought to Arizona.
Drachev read a statement in Russian to Simberg's parents. Simberg's mother, Anna Simberg, left the courtroom in tears as soon as Drachev began speaking.
"I will be thinking about (Konstantin) for the rest of my life. I will be begging for forgiveness for the rest of my life," Drachev said. "It is difficult for me to continue living knowing that you suffer from this pain constantly."
Authorities said Drachev and two other men kidnapped Simberg from a Phoenix apartment as Simberg talked to a detective on the phone. The men beat Simberg with brass knuckles, bound him with duct tape and drove him to a remote desert area about 90 miles north of Phoenix. There, the attackers stabbed Simberg, pinned him down with rocks, doused him with gasoline and set him on fire. Hunters found Simberg's body near a creek the next day.
Anna Simberg told the judge that Drachev took away her and her husband's only hope for a bright future.
"It's his responsibility that we will never have grandchildren," Simberg said through a Russian interpreter. "He admitted his guilt only to avoid a more severe punishment. He doesn't deserve any leniency."
The saga began in late 2001 with a plot to steal 6,000 vials of human growth hormone from a FedEx truck that was taking it to a pharmacy. The plan was to have a group of high school students move nearly $1 million in drugs from the truck to another vehicle.
But the theft was bungled at every turn. The FedEx driver refused to cooperate and delivered the drugs to the pharmacy. The participants then tried to stage a burglary of the business.
Simberg's role in the theft involved renting a U-Haul truck to transport the drugs. He agreed to work as a police informant once law enforcement caught on to the scheme.
Two other men, Dennis V. Tsoukanov, 31, and Chris Gabriel Andrews, 30, were convicted of murder and kidnapping in Simberg's death. Tsoukanov was sentenced to 13 years in prison, while Andrews was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Five men who were not charged in Simberg's death pleaded guilty to charges related to the theft plot. One was sentenced to five years in prison, while the other four got probation.