News and Press Releases

Ring Distributed Kilo Quantities of Cocaine and Heroin

January 15, 2009

Sixteen people were arrested today following a year long investigation of a drug distribution conspiracy centered in Skagit County, Washington. The drug ring allegedly smuggled five to ten kilos of cocaine per month into the United States from Mexico and distributed it in Skagit County. The ring also allegedly smuggled pound quantities of heroin. Today alone, law enforcement seized five pounds of heroin and two pounds of cocaine when officers searched five residences. Officers also seized $23,000 in cash, seven vehicles and two firearms. Eight of the defendants have been indicted in federal court, and seven people have been detained facing either charges in Skagit County Superior Court, or immigration proceedings. One defendant likely will be processed as a juvenile.

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.

These defendants have been indicted by a federal grand jury and will make their initial appearance today at 2:30 in U.S. District Court in Seattle:

ALFONSO GUTIERREZ-OROZCO, a/k/a “Saul,” 25, of Mount Vernon, WA
FERNANDO HERNANDEZ-SALAZAR, a/k/a “Tino,” 20, of Mount Vernon, WA
ABEL OROZCO-GUTIERREZ, a/k/a “Kalvin,”34, of Tacoma. WA
JOEL VASQUEZ-VASQUEZ, 21, of Mount Vernon, WA
SAMUEL VACA-GARCIA, 26, Bellingham, WA

These defendants will make their initial appearance in U.S. District Court at 2:30 tomorrow:

JESSIE SMITH, 26, of Sedro Woolley, WA
TAMMY ZOROTOVICH, 39, of Bellingham, WA

The charges in the indictment are punishable by a mandatory minimum ten years in prison up to life in prison.

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 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 today: 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 is being 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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