DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION THAT DISPATCHED HEROIN DELIVERIES DISMANTLED
Organization Operating in South Tacoma Supplied Heroin Across South Sound Region
Twenty-three people were arrested and more than 65 pounds of black tar heroin were seized in a coordinated law enforcement effort to dismantle a drug trafficking organization distributing large amounts of heroin and methamphetamine from Mexican cartels into the Tacoma region. The arrests and search warrants served yesterday were part of a national effort dubbed “Project Deliverance.” The operation targeted the transportation infrastructure of Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the United States.
“This investigation strikes a blow against a dangerous scourge in our communities,” said United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “Yesterday, in just one residence, agents found 58 pounds of black tar heroin – a stunning indication of the massive amounts of poison this group was spreading. They operated almost like a pizza delivery business, using runners and dispatchers to get drugs out into multiple south Puget Sound communities.”
According to records filed in the case, the organization used various runners working with a ‘dispatcher’ to get drugs into the hands of customers. Drug customers from Lewis, Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston and Grays Harbor Counties would call and order drugs. They would be given an intersection within a six square mile area of south Tacoma where they were to park. The dispatcher would take a description of the customer’s car. At the time of the meet, the drug runner’s car would drive slowly past the customer car signaling the customer to follow, the cars would proceed into a residential neighborhood, alert to any surveillance and make the drug transaction. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, proceeds of the drug trade, was being shipped to Mexico in hidden compartments built into vehicles. Over the past few weeks two cars were stopped and nearly $100,000 was seized.
In the course of the thirteen month investigation, and during the police activity yesterday, authorities seized more than 80 pounds of heroin, $400,000 in cash, 4 firearms, and more than four pounds of methamphetamine. Yesterday alone more than $270,000 was seized.
“Project Deliverance targeted the Mexican-based criminal organizations responsible for transporting and distributing large quantities of drugs in this area and in many other parts of the U.S.,” said Mark Thomas, DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge. “Today the actions of the DEA, U.S. Attorney, and our law enforcement partners resulted in the seizure of over 65 pounds of heroin. This is a cogent public safety step since it prevents several million user doses of heroin from poisoning our community.”
Twenty-three people were arrested yesterday, either indicted by the grand jury or charged by criminal complaint. Those arrested include:
JOSE CAMPOS PIÑEDA, 33, Spanaway
MARGARITO LEMUS ESTRADA, 33, Tacoma
RAMON HERNANDEZ GOMEZ, 29, Lakewood
MARIO GONZALEZ RUBIO GARCIA, 24, Tacoma
ALBERTO FLORES RAMIREZ, 23, Tacoma
MIGUEL ANGEL VENTURA, 28, Tacoma
NELSON VILLEGAS MARTINEZ, 38, Tacoma
JUAN REYES SOTO, 39, Tacoma
JAVIER JASSO RIOS, 32, Puyallup
OFELIA RAMIREZ, 54, Tacoma
ALICIA ALVAREZ, 33, Tacoma
CALYPSO MARES, 37, Tacoma
HIRBIT PENA GARCIA, 27, Lakewood
RAQUEL GARCIA ESPINOZA, 47, Tacoma
SERGIO OMAR VALENCIA GARCIA, 33, Tacoma
ELIZABETH SALAZAR, 31, Tacoma
ANTONIO LEMUS MADRIGAL, 31, Tacoma
LUIS AGUILAR, Tacoma
AERLIS DAISY MEJIA, 27, Portland, Oregon
SAUL MURILLO-PRADO, 36, Portland, Oregon
ALFONSO CONTRERAS-LOPEZ , 38, Tacoma
MARRO ANTONIO POSSE-CASTRO, 28, Tacoma JAVIER LOPEZ RIVAS, 35, Tacoma
An indictment or a complaint is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Grays Harbor Drug Task Force, Lakewood Police Department and Thurston County Narcotics Task Force. The following agencies provided substantial assistance: Auburn Police Department, Bonney Lake Police Department, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Fife Police Department, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Puyallup Police Department, Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Tacoma Police Department, Washington State Patrol and Washington State Department of Corrections.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Doug Whalley, Jeff Backhus and Matthew Thomas.
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.