News and Press Releases

More Than A Dozen People Charged Federally in Year-long Wiretap Investigation

September 25, 2008

More than a dozen people face federal cocaine trafficking charges following a year-long investigation into the Rojas drug trafficking organization operating in the Seattle, Washington, and Rexburg, Idaho areas. Using court authorized wiretaps, law enforcement was able to track the activities of the drug organization and made arrests as the Seattle area leader took delivery of 15 kilos of cocaine. Fifteen people have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the Western District of Washington. Additionally, six people are in state or immigration custody. In Idaho, six people were arrested last week, and seven additional customers of the drug ring were arrested this morning. Over the past month authorities searched seven locations in Western Washington and seized 20 kilos of cocaine,16 pounds of methamphetamine, approximately $940,000 in cash, and numerous cars and boats.

“This organization was moving large quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico into our community,” said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. “Some of these defendants were supplying drugs to street gangs that prey on our kids, and threaten our safety.”

The federal focus on the Rojas organization intensified in November 2007, when a Cadillac Escalade registered to a Seattle resident was stopped by Oregon State Police as it traveled north on Interstate -5 outside of Salem. BERTARIO SANTOS-ROJAS was a passenger in the Escalade. A drug K-9 alerted to the SUV, and following an x-ray examination by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Portland, investigators found 31 kilos of cocaine and more than $11,000 cash hidden in a speaker box in the rear of the SUV. The driver of the SUV, and BERTARIO SANTOS-ROJAS are charged in connection with that seizure in the District of Oregon as well.

Following that traffic stop, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Seattle Police Department and King County Sheriff’s Office, continued to gather information about the Rojas organization. On September 10, 2008, aware of a major cocaine delivery, law enforcement moved in and made arrests. Those indicted include:

BERTARIO SANTOS-ROJAS, 36, Auburn, Washington
DARYL SHEARS, 43, Renton, Washington
MARIA BAEZ, 30, Kent, Washington
FELICIA BOWEN, 36, Kent, Washington
JESUS YORDANI MORENO ZUAREZ, 20, Shoreline, Washington
IGNACIO PENA-GARCIA, 32, Bothell, Washington
JOSE VIDAL-BARRAZA, 21, Renton, Washington
NESTOR CRUZ-SANTIAGO, a/k/a “Rica,” 22, Renton, Washington
CHRISTIAN RUELAS-ORTIZ, 22, Culiacan, Mexico
SIMON RUIZ GARCIA, 37, of Kent, Washington
MAURA MEZA, 24, of Renton, Washington
GEORGINA FERNANDEZ, 22, Issaquah, Washington

Some of the defendants are charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine, and some are charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine and Methamphetamine.

“This well established and sophisticated organization controlled by Sinaloan drug sources no longer exists in the Pacific Northwest,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Arnold R. Moorin. “The investigation is yet another outstanding example of law enforcement partnerships working together as one.”

“This investigation illustrates the tremendous working relationship between agencies. The amount of drugs destined for the Seattle area would have caused misery and ruin to untold numbers of people had they not been stopped. The effort of the detectives and agents involved is truly remarkable,” said Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske.

“Partnering with other law enforcement agencies is key to stopping those who seek to profit from the sale of illegal drugs,” said Leigh Winchell, Special Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Seattle. “ICE remains committed to expanding these relationships to leverage our enforcement capabilities against drug traffickers.”

The Conspiracy counts are punishable by ten years to life in prison. Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute is punishable by five to forty years in prison. The charges contained in an indictment or complaint 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 was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Seattle Police Department and King County Sheriff’s Office.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney’s Lisca Borichewski and Doug Whalley.

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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