News and Press Releases

Searches and Arrests Over Two Days to Dismantle Distribution Network

October 22, 2009

As part of a nationwide crackdown dubbed “Project Coronado,” sixteen people were indicted in the Western District of Washington in a conspiracy to distribute large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine in connection with the “La Familia” crime syndicate. The investigation, begun in December 2008, links the distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine to the cartel based in Michoacan, Mexico. Of the sixteen people indicted last week, 14 have been arrested and two remain fugitives. Four more defendants are charged by complaint in federal court. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) led task force searched 19 residences and 22 vehicles in Washington and California, and seized 28 pounds of methamphetamine, 10 kilos of cocaine, seven guns, and an estimated $200,000 in cash.

“The cartel known as ‘La Familia’ is linked to horrible violence in Mexico, including the torture and murder of 12 Mexican Federal Police officers last July,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “This investigation and indictment target the poison tentacles of this cartel in our community.”

These defendants are in federal custody:

ARTURO J. BARAJAS GARCIA, 32, Renton, Washington
GUDELIO J. OROZCO GOMEZ, 27, Kent, Washington
DEMETRIO SALDANA ROBLES, 26, Monroe, Washington
JUAN CARLOS SALDANA ROBLES, 23, Monroe, Washington
JORGE OCHOA AVILA, 39, Monroe, Washington
BENUSTIANO CARRANZA LUA, 41, Monroe, Washington
JESUS MEDINA CONTRERAS, 42, Everett, Washington
CANDIDO HERNANDEZ, 41, Monroe, Washington
FRANCISCO VILLANUEVA VEGA, 37, Snohomish, Washington
JESENIA VAZQUEZ, 26, Kent, Washington
TRENT THOMAS JESMER, 31, Monroe, Washington

These defendants have been indicted and are fugitives:
DANIEL BARAJAS, 36, San Diego, California

Four additional defendants were charged by complaint in Washington with Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances:
JOSE JESUS AGUILAR-PADILLA, 22, of Monroe, Washington
CHRISTOPHER JETER, 34, Monroe, Washington
LIBERADO SANCHEZ-MAGANA, 41, San Jose, California (arrested in California)
JORGE LUIS SOLORIO-MENDOZA, 18, San Jose, California (arrested in California)

According to a search warrant affidavit and criminal complaint unsealed this morning in federal court, the conspirators are allegedly responsible for transporting large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine from California to the Puget Sound region for distribution. Members of the drug organization were under surveillance by law enforcement as they arranged drug deals and sold drugs to an undercover officer. In one case detailed in the search warrant affidavit, a conspirator brought a young child about 4-years-old to a drug deal in the parking lot of a Monroe supermarket.

Many of the cars associated with the drug organization are believed to be equipped with secret compartments for carrying drugs from suppliers in the south. Those same hidden compartments are then used to transport money back to the source of supply. Of the eleven vehicles seized yesterday, at least three had secret traps.

“This is a salient day for law enforcement,” stated Acting Special Agent in Charge Mark Thomas. “Project Coronado was an effective law enforcement tool which exposed the expansive and entrenched nature of this drug trafficking organization. The organization expanded its operations from Mexico, into other states, and ultimately to the Pacific Northwest. Today's arrests are the direct result of the cohesive efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that combined resources and expertise to infiltrate, and neutralize this international drug trafficking organization.”

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), and the South Snohomish County Narcotics Task Force consisting of Lynnwood Police Department, Mountlake Terrace Police Department, and Edmonds Police Department. The Burien Police Department, King County Sheriff's Office, the Seattle Police Department, Monroe Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Marshal's Service also participated in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah Vogel and Special Assistant United States Attorney Adam Cornell. Mr. Cornell is a Deputy Snohomish County Prosecutor specially designated to prosecute drug crimes 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

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