News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 1, 2006
Contact: Jeff Eig
206-553-1411

Forty Indicted in Connection with
Sophisticated Skagit County Drug Trafficking Ring
Lengthy Wiretap Investigation Leads to Multiple Cells of
Drug Organization Based in Mexico

DEC 1 -- This morning Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, officers with the Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit (SCIDEU), and other law enforcement personnel served 19 search warrants and arrested 26 people in connection with a sophisticated drug-trafficking organization. The organization, based in Sinaloa, Mexico, was transporting drugs to Skagit County. These arrests, following the successful prosecution and dismantling of the Garcia-Villalba drug-trafficking organization in 2005, has made a significant dent in the supply of illegal drugs in Skagit County. These two investigations of organized drug trafficking groups in Skagit County have resulted in federal charges against 79 people.

“The battle against drug trafficking is not confined to urban centers,” said United States Attorney John McKay. “We are successfully targeting federal resources to enhance local efforts to stop the flow of drugs into rural parts of Western Washington.”

“Today we have dismantled a drug trafficking group that brought significant amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, from Mexico into the Skagit County region,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Rodney Benson. “This group used sophisticated hidden compartments to transport drugs from Mexico into the United States and then used the same vehicles to transport large amounts of cash back south of the border. This joint two-year long operation shows that state and federal law enforcement is committed to going after organizations whose mission is to pollute our communities with drugs for profit.”

The federal grand jury returned charges in this case following a two year investigation. The conspirators are charged with distributing heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. If convicted, some face mandatory minimum terms of ten years to life in prison. Some of the defendants sold heroin to undercover agents on multiple occasions. Members of the drug organization sold guns as well as drugs to undercover officers. Other defendants transported money from Skagit County that was destined for Mexico. Using court authorized wire-taps, investigators monitored the ring’s activities for approximately four months.

Over the course of the investigation law enforcement made undercover purchases totaling two pounds of methamphetamine, two pounds of heroin, and two pounds of cocaine. In addition, agents seized $84,600 from the organization. During today’s searches authorities seized $20,000 in cash, three weapons, eight pounds of methamphetamine, three pounds of cocaine, three pounds of heroin and several vehicles.

A list of those indicted is attached along with their custody status. Additionally, four people were arrested on state charges. The majority of the defendants are Mexican nationals in the United States illegally. An indictment contains allegations that have not yet been proven in court beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the prosecution of the Garcia-Villalba drug ring in 2005, thirty-six of the thirty-nine defendants pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial. The leaders of the drug ring are serving mandatory minimum ten year sentences.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by the DEA, Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco & Explosives (ATF), Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcment Unit (SCIDEU), the Washington State Patrol (WSP), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Northwest Regional Drug Task Force (NWRDTF), the Skagit County Sheriff’s Department, the Burlington Police Department and the Mount Vernon Police Department. The Anacortes Police Department, Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force, and the Marysville Police Department SWAT unit assisted with the law enforcement activities today.

Those arrested today will make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:30 on the 12th floor in front of Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Lulejian, Douglas B. Whalley and Leonie G. H. Grant, with assistance from Skagit County Deputy Prosecutor Trisha Johnson.