News and Press Releases

Used Car Dealer Pleads Guilty to Marijuana Trafficking for Large Drug Organization

June 23, 2009

ROBERT BLANCHARD, 53, of Aberdeen, Washington, was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to 46 months in prison and three years of supervised release for Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana. BLANCHARD was arrested in April 2008, following an extensive DEA and local law enforcement investigation of a Mexican drug trafficking organization operating in the South Puget Sound and Southwest Washington region. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle approved significant forfeitures to the United States. Judge Settle declined to depart downward on the sentence, as requested by the defendant, saying that a sentence within the guideline range was appropriate.

In early April 2008, more than 300 law enforcement officers served 20 search warrants and seized 20 pounds of methamphetamine – bringing the total for the fourteen month investigation to 89 pounds. Agents seized 50 firearms, and $255,000 in cash. One of the leaders of the drug ring, Epifanio Barragan Estrada was sentenced earlier this year to ten years in prison and five years of supervised release. BLANCHARD was a trusted distributor of marijuana for the organization.

BLANCHARD has agreed to forfeit $15,000 to the U.S. following the sale of his used car lot property in Hoquiam, Washington. In addition BLANCHARD is forfeiting all the firearms seized at his home: a 9mm Makarov handgun; a Savage .32 caliber pistol; a Astera .22 caliber handgun; a Colt .38 special revolver; a high-standard .22 caliber pistol; a British long branch rifle with scope; a Revelation 410 shotgun; and a Savage 270 rifle.

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, 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 was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Thomas and Ye-Ting Woo.

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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