United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
Two Members Of Drug Conspiracy Connected To Mexican Cartel Convicted Following Seven Day Trial
Defendants Transported and Distributed Meth and Heroin; One Heavily Armed
Two men investigated as part of a wide ranging international drug conspiracy were convicted today in U.S. District Court in Seattle on federal charges related to their drug distribution, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. RAUL ANCHONDO, 29, was convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances, Conspiracy to Possess Firearms in Furtherance of Drug Trafficking Crimes & Crimes of Violence, and Possession of Firearms in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime. RICHARD ANTHONY ORTIZ, 33, was convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances and Possession of Heroin with Intent to Distribute. The jury deliberated about five hours following the seven day trial. ANCHONDO faces a mandatory minimum 15 years in prison and up to life in prison and ORTIZ faces a mandatory minimum ten years in prison and up to life in prison. They are to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik on September 27, 2013.
The men were arrested in March 2012, following a lengthy investigation of the drug trafficking ring. According to records filed in the case, during the investigation, agents seized multiple kilos of heroin, pounds of methamphetamine, and more than a dozen firearms, including military-style assault rifles which were bound for cartel members in Mexico. During the course of the investigation, federal agents were able to interdict a shipment of a dozen weapons to Mexico, preventing high powered firearms from crossing the border. In all, 34 people have been charged in the case and the conspiracy leaders in the U.S., Cristian Berrelleza-Verduzco, Victor Berrelleza-Verduzco, and Ivan Berrelleza-Verduzco have all pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in September 2013.
According to testimony at trial, ANCHONDO ran a stash house for drugs and bulk cash in Arizona, and later became a courier, bringing multi-pound loads of methamphetamine and kilos of heroin up to Western Washington in hidden compartments of various load vehicles. The compartments would be loaded with cash for the return trip – as much as $100,000 to $300,000 headed back to Mexico. ANCHONDO helped pack and ship the drugs – the packages were wrapped in a distinctive way with the initials of the drug leaders in Mexico responsible for the load noted on the packaging. At the direction of the conspiracy leaders, members of the conspiracy slept with firearms at their sides to protect the drugs and the cash. ANCHONDO also received two high powered weapons for shipment to Mexico, and used other firearms during the course of the conspiracy. ORTIZ was a kilo quantity distributor of heroin in Western Washington, making calls to arrange drug deliveries even as he was leaving the office of his state community corrections officer. Nearly 500 telephone calls on cell phones associated with ORTIZ tie him to the Washington leaders of the drug conspiracy.
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 ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Lake Stevens Police Department, the Snohomish Police Department, Washington State Patrol, the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force and the Seattle Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vince Lombardi and John McNeil.