Third major takedown of drug trafficking ring nets 14 arrests | USAO-WDWA

(Seattle) – The third major drug ring takedown in as many months resulted in 14 arrests today of members of the drug trafficking network.  U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran and DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis announced the culmination of these three wiretap investigations.  Those arrested today will appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:00.

“With this third law enforcement takedown in six weeks, we continue to root out those who seek to poison our communities with fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine,” said U.S. Attorney Moran.  “Despite the challenges of tracking criminal activity during a pandemic, the dedicated men and woman of law enforcement continue to investigate and interdict drug shipments while building legal cases against these defendants.”

“Even during this Covid-19 crisis, these alleged drug traffickers preyed on Washingtonians, using extraordinary violence to increase their wealth and power,” said DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea. “However, as this operation shows, DEA and our law enforcement partners will never stop working – even during a global pandemic – to protect the communities we serve.  Operation Lockdown successfully removed a number of violent drug traffickers from the streets of the Seattle-Tacoma area, and will enable these communities to focus on what matters most – the health and safety of their loved ones.”

“With today’s operation we have surpassed 60 arrests of members of highly organized transnational groups with tentacles reaching from Mexico to Puget Sound.  They profit by pushing extremely dangerous narcotics such as methamphetamines, heroin and the worst of the worst – fentanyl,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis. “With our partners, even before today’s action, we took over 300 pounds of methamphetamine, 55 pounds of heroin, 41,200 fentanyl pills, 30 firearms; and more than $1. 3 million in drug trafficker assets off the streets. The dealers of these drugs are responsible for increasing levels of violence, addiction and overdose deaths in our communities.”

Today’s arrests come on the heels of two other major drug takedowns: On August 5, 2020, law enforcement rolled up a drug trafficking ring that distributed large amounts of fentanyl, heroin and meth in the Seattle area and North Puget Sound region.  During that investigation law enforcement seized more than14 pounds of heroin and 15 pounds of methamphetamine.

On July 28, 2020, law enforcement arrested 13 people named in an indictment for drug trafficking connected to the violent CJNG Mexican cartel.  Much of the drug trafficking activity in that case was in the South Sound region, including the Kitsap Peninsula.  More than 100 pounds of meth were seized in that investigation, and law enforcement had to intervene at times when they heard threats being made over the wire to enforce cartel rules with violence.

Today’s takedown involves drug defendants who distributed fentanyl, meth and heroin in Seattle and North Puget Sound communities.  They discussed or conducted their drug deals in a wide variety of locations, such as a Mexican restaurant in Kent, a bank parking lot at the Northgate shopping mall and a 7-11 in Snohomish County.  The members of the drug distribution ring were frequently armed – one was pulled over after waving a firearm at another vehicle on I-5 North near Bellingham.  In December 2019, law enforcement seized 10 kilos of methamphetamine, 1,000 fentanyl-tainted pills and a loaded firearm from the lead defendant in this case.

Those named in the indictments or taken into custody on criminal complaints week include:

Gonzalo Villasenor, 23, Lynnwood

Julio Cesar Ramirez-Meneses, 32, Kent

Jocelyn Leyva-Castellanos, 21, Lynnwood

Edgar Efren Olivas-Armenta, 43, Edmonds

Rozzy Marie McGee, 34, Everett

Emanuel Campos-Pantoja, 23, SeaTac

Francisco Javier Carrillo, 33, Marysville

Anthony Michael Shepherd, 33, Marysville

Julius B. Supnet, 27, Edmonds

Jesus Israel Tapia-Alvarado, 24, Bellevue

Bryan Michael Pollestad, 33, Everett 

Travis Eugene Keel, 52, Everett  

Laura Rodriguez-Moreno, 44, Marysville

Jose Morales-Flores, 39, Marysville

Omar Israel Morales, 18, Marysville

Joaquin Guerrero-Serrano, 34, Marysville

Gerardo Arias-Garcia, 32, Renton

Samantha Hernandez, 38, Lynnwood

Lionel Gonzalez-Torres, 24, Burlington

Jesus Daniel Lerma-Jaras, 40, Everett  

Prior to today’s takedown law enforcement seized more than 8,000 pills tainted with suspected fentanyl, 22 pounds of heroin, 70 pounds of methamphetamine, one kilo of cocaine, two firearms and approximately $500,000 cash in drug proceeds.  Today, law enforcement seized: 36 pounds of heroin, 1,600 suspected fentanyl pills, a pound of methamphetamine, and seven firearms.

“I’m grateful for the dozens of arrests and the seizure of many pounds of illegal drugs, including thousands of pills likely tainted with fentanyl,” Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said Tuesday.  “What’s far more difficult to count; the number of lives saved and the number of parents who have been spared the trauma of burying their child, thanks to the on-going partnerships between local and federal law enforcement agencies.”

“The Skagit County Interlocal Drug Task Force is pleased to have played a small role in this larger multi-jurisdictional law enforcement effort that will have a significant and sustained impact on the organized drug trade in Washington State,” said Tobin Meyer, Chief Criminal Deputy, Skagit County Sheriff’s Office

Due to the amount of narcotics involved in this case, some defendants face a mandatory minimum ten years in prison.

The charges contained in the indictments and complaints are only allegations.  A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force, Seattle Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Skagit Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit.  The investigation was supported by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). 

In addition, to the agencies listed above, these law enforcement agencies assisted with arrests and search warrants executed today:  Snohomish County Sherriff’s Office, Everett Police Department, Marysville Police Department, Skagit County Sherriff’s Office, Valley SWAT, Region 1 SWAT, North Sound Metro SWAT, Olympic Peninsula Narcotic Enforcement Team, Washington State Patrol, King County Sherriff’s Office, Auburn Police Department, Kent Police Department, Federal Way Police Department, Shoreline Police Department, Renton Police Department, Bothell Police Department, Lake Stevens Police Department, Mountlake Terrace Police Department, Arlington Police Department, Snoqualmie/North Bend Police Department, Burien Police Department, Tacoma Police Department, DEA Special Response Team, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), United States Marshals Service (USMS), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen P. Hobbs and C. Andrew Colasurdo.

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