News and Press Releases

ARRESTS TARGET METHAMPHETAMINE TRAFFICKING RING
Crime Family Smuggled Multi-Pound Loads of Highly Pure Meth from Mexico to California, Washington and Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2008

Twenty-two members of a Mexico based criminal organization were arrested yesterday and today on an indictment charging them with Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering. The Barragan Drug Trafficking Organization is alleged to distribute hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine in Washington State each month. As much as 200 pounds of methamphetamine are manufactured in Michoacan, Mexico each month and are smuggled into the United States for distribution by various members of the organization.

“These arrests have removed the largest drug trafficking organization in south Puget Sound and on the Olympic Peninsula.” said United States Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. “For many years these defendants spread their highly addictive poison, profiting on the pain of others, shipping their proceeds back to Mexico to fund construction of lavish homes and other luxuries.”

In coordinated law enforcement sweeps over the last two days, authorities served 20 search warrants. In addition to the federal arrests, 19 defendants face state charges. In the last 24 hours agents seized 20 pounds of methamphetamine – bringing the total for the fourteen month investigation to 89 pounds. Over the last 24 hours agents seized 41 firearms, bringing the total for the investigation to 50 firearms. Finally, over the past 24 hours agents seized $100,000 in currency, bringing the total in the investigation to $255,000.

An estimated 300 agents and officers were involved in the law enforcement operation over the last 24 hours.

“Drug trafficking organizations based in Mexico do not confine themselves by our boundaries, borders or laws. They have moved into our neighborhoods, and with them they have brought their illegal and often violent activities which represent a serious threat to the safety and well being of our communities,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Arnold R. Moorin. “The key to the success of this operation was the tenacity and commitment of the law enforcement men and women, who collectively focused on the regional harm caused by the Barragan Organization. That unwavering focus ultimately resulted in the complete dismantlement of a very large and long established drug trafficking organization, who were only interested in profiting from the misery of the citizens in the state of Washington and beyond.”

According to records filed in the case, the Barragan Drug Trafficking Organization is led by three brothers; one remains in Mexico, while ULISES, and HERMINIO BARRAGAN-MENDOZA control operations here. Other key players are the brothers’ cousins, JOSE BARRAGAN ZEPEDA, EPIFANIO BARRAGAN ESTRADA, FERNANDO BARRAGAN ZEPEDA and their uncle, ABRAHAM BARRAGAN ZEPEDA. The organization is alleged to control the methamphetamine distribution network along every step of the route from their hometown of Arteaga, in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, to various stash houses in California and Washington.

The defendants arrested over the last two days include:

HERMINIO BARRAGAN-MENDOZA, Olympia, Washington
SAMANTHA MASON, Olympia, Washington
ULISES BARRAGAN MENDOZA, Lacy, Washington
ROBERTO BARRAGAN MENDOZA, Lacy, Washington
JOSE BARRAGAN ZEPEDA, Aberdeen, Washington
FERNANDO BARRAGAN ZEPEDA, Aberdeen, Washington
ALEJANDRO CALDERON FRANCO, Olympia, Washington
VERONICA PARDO MARTINEZ, Aberdeen, Washington
LUIS ALVAREZ PONCE, Aberdeen, Washington
AMADOR HEREDIA MENDOZA, Lacey, Washington
ADRIAN PEREZ GARCIA, Aberdeen, Washington
MARTIN BARRAGAN MARTINEZ, Aberdeen, Washington
BOB BLANCHARD, Aberdeen, Washington
EPIFANIO BARRAGAN ESTRADA, Woodland, Washington
TAMMY JEROME, Copalis Beach, Washington
DENNIS STENGEL, Olympia, Washington
FRANCISCO MANUEL RUIZ CHAVEZ, Woodland, Washington
OMAR CARDOZO CANDELARIO, Richland, Washington,
JESUS LARIOS RUIZ, Woodland, Washington
SALVADOR PARDO MARTINEZ, Aberdeen, Washington
MIGUEL BARRAGAN FARIAS, Long Beach, Washington
FRANCISCO CORTEZ VILLA, Long Beach, Washington

Some of the defendants are making their initial appearances on the charges in U.S. District court in Tacoma today at 2:30. Others made their initial appearances following their arrests yesterday. Trial is set for June 10, 2008 in front of U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle.

The charges contained in the indictment 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 case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Tacoma Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, Puyallup Police Department, Bonney Lake Police Department, Auburn Police Department, Washington Department of Corrections, Pierce County Prosecutors Office, Thurston County Sheriff’s Department, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Department, Lakewood Police Department, Northwest HIDTA. Additionally these agencies contributed to this law enforcement effort: US Marshal’s Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Pacific County Sheriff's Department, Columbia River Drug Task Force, Lewis County Sheriff Office, Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, Wahkiakum County Sheriff’s Office, Kelso Police Department, Longview Police Department, Woodland Police Department, Tumwater Police Department, Lacey Police Department, Olympia Police Department, Aberdeen Police Department,
Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team, Fife Police Department, Missoula HIDTA.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Thomas, Ye-Ting Woo, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Doug Hill.  Mr. Hill is a Deputy Pierce County Prosecutor specially designated to prosecute drug cases in federal court.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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