News and Press Releases

Ring Distributed Kilo Quantities of Cocaine and Heroin

August 14, 2009

Three members of a drug trafficking ring operating in Skagit County Washington were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to lengthy prison terms. In all, sixteen people were arrested January 15, 2009, following a year-long investigation of a drug distribution conspiracy smuggling five to ten kilos of cocaine per month into the United States from Mexico. The ring also smuggled pound quantities of heroin. ALFONSO GUTIERREZ-OROZCO, a/k/a “Saul,” 26, of Mount Vernon, Washington, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour to 10 years in prison and five years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin. As a Mexican national, GUTIERREZ-OROZCO will likely be deported following his prison term.

FERNANDO HERNANDEZ-SALAZAR, a/k/a “Tino,” 21, of Mount Vernon, Washington was also sentenced to ten years in prison and five years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute heroin. JOEL VASQUEZ-VASQUEZ, 22, of Mount Vernon, Washington was sentenced to three years in prison and three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine. As Mexican Nationals, both face deportation following their prison terms.

When officers executed search warrants on five residences in January 2009, they seized five pounds of heroin and two pounds of cocaine. Officers also seized $35,000 in cash, seven vehicles and two firearms. The investigation utilized court approved wire-taps, and confidential informants to infiltrate the drug ring as it recruited people to transport cocaine from Tijuana, Baja, California, Mexico into the United States.

In asking for a lengthy sentence for GUTIERREZ-OROZCO, Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Diggs noted that GUTIERREZ-OROZCO came to the U.S. and immediately became a supervisor in the drug trade, harming others along the way. “... a large number of people are facing deportation, felony convictions, and lengthy prison terms as a result of Gutierrez-Orozco’s product, and his desire to profit from his illegal activity,” Mr. Diggs wrote in his sentencing memo.

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 Justice Enforcement (ICE), the Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit (SCIDEU) which consists of officers from the Washington State Patrol (WSP), Skagit County Sheriff’s Office and Anacortes Police Department. These additional agencies assisted with the arrests and searches: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Mount Vernon Police Department, the National Guard, the Bellingham Police Department, and the Northwest Regional Drug Task Force (NWRDTF).

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Diggs and Karyn Johnson and Special Assistant United States Attorney Adam Cornell. Mr. Cornell is a Deputy Snohomish 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 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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