News and Press Releases

LEAD DEFENDANTS PLEAD GUILTY IN SKAGIT COUNTY DRUG TRAFFICKING CONSPIRACY
Ring Distributed Kilo Quantities of Cocaine and Heroin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2009

Three leaders of a drug trafficking ring operating in Skagit County Washington have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Sixteen people were arrested January 15, 2008, 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, WA, pleaded guilty today to Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin, and faces a mandatory minimum ten years in prison when sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on August 14, 2009.

JOEL VASQUEZ-VASQUEZ, 22, of Mount Vernon, WA and FERNANDO HERNANDEZ-SALAZAR, a/k/a “Tino,” 21, of Mount Vernon, WA pleaded guilty last week. VASQUEZ-VASQUEZ faces five years in prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and HERNANDEZ-SALAZAR faces a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute heroin. Both will be sentenced by Judge Coughenour the same day as ring leader GUTIERREZ-OROZCO: August 14, 2009.

When officers executed search warrants on five residences in January 2009, they seized five kilos of heroin and two kilos 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.

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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