FBI and Local Drug Task Forces Make One of the Largest-Ever Drugs Seizures in Eastern Washington History
Richland – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that the FBI’s Southeast Washington Safe Streets Task Force, in partnership with multiple local law enforcement agencies, executed a series of federal search warrants at several residential locations in the Tri-cities area.
According to court documents, these drugs were seized on December 14, 2022 as part of an investigation into the use of the United States Postal Service to traffic multiple-pound quantities of dangerous controlled substances, including fentanyl-laced pills and methamphetamine. In total, the FBI and its local law enforcement partners seized more than 100,000 fentanyl-laced pills (to include pink and rainbow-colored pills), more than 50 pounds of methamphetamine, and approximately 1 kilogram of cocaine. The FBI and its local partners also seized approximately $15,000 in U.S. Currency and several money counters, which typically are used by banks to count large amounts of U.S. Currency. More than 20 firearms were seized, along with a significant amount of ammunition.
According to public court documents, several individuals have been charged in connection with the investigation. On December 6, 2022, Angel Ramon Barajas-Zarate was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Actual Methamphetamine. Hector Sanchez-Mendez was charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute 500 Grams or More of Methamphetamine in a complaint filed on December 15, 2022. A separate complaint filed on December 15, 2022, charges Jeremy Obediha Hendricks and Nichole Diane Holland with Possession with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Actual (Pure) Methamphetamine.
U.S. Attorney Waldref commended the joint efforts of law enforcement for removing such a large quantity of illegal narcotics from the community. U.S. Attorney Waldref stated, “Illegal narcotics, and fentanyl in particular, have become a scourge across the United States. I’m grateful to the FBI and our critical Safe Streets Task Force partners for working together to combat this dangerous poison. Without their combined efforts, more than 100,000 deadly fentanyl-laced pills and more than 50 pounds of methamphetamine would not have been removed from the community. As a result, our neighborhoods and communities are safer and stronger.”
This ongoing case is being investigated by the FBI Task Force, along with the United States Postal Inspection Service. The FBI Task Force has been assisted by multiple local law enforcement entities, including the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, Richland Police Department, Kennewick Police Department, Pasco Police Department, West Richland Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the METRO Drug Task Force, and the Washington State Department of Corrections. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Border Patrol also provided assistance. These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephanie Van Marter and Caitlin Baunsgard.
An indictment and a complaint are merely allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.