U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref Honored by Washington Women Lawyers for “Passing the Torch” and Going “Above and Beyond” to Mentor Women Lawyers
Yakama, Washington – Chief U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian has sentenced Jesus B. Zavala-Alvarez, 28, of Kennewick, Washington, to 135 months in federal prison for his role in guarding a stash house, where the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.) seized over 8 pounds of methamphetamine, 64 ounces of liquid methamphetamine and 19,000 deadly fentanyl-laced pills, along with a loaded firearm. Zavala-Alvarez was also sentenced to serve five years on federal supervision if he is allowed to remain in the United States. Zavala-Alvarez’s drug trafficking organization operated primarily out of the Tri-Cities area, which includes Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland, Washington.
According to information disclosed during court proceedings, DEA Tri-Cities and the Tri-City METRO Drug Task Force identified a transnational drug trafficking organization operating in and around the Tri-Cities. DEA agents identified Zavala-Alvarez during an investigation into two of his codefendants – Daniel Hernandez and Jessie Mendoza. During the investigation, Zavala-Alvarez delivered two pounds of methamphetamine as part of a controlled buy. This led agents to Zavala-Alvarez’s residence in Kennewick, Washington. Upon the execution of a federal search warrant at Zavala-Alvarez’s residence in April 2020, agents seized a large stash of narcotics, which included over 19,000 fentanyl-laced pills. Hernandez and Mendoza were later arrested and found to be in possession of more than 20,000 fentanyl-laced pills, approximately 5 pounds of methamphetamine, and several ounces of heroin. Hernandez and Mendoza were also in possession of multiple firearms.
At the sentencing proceedings in the case, Chief Judge Bastian noted Zavala-Alvarez’s substantial role in the organization, including that he was entrusted to safe keep a large cache of drugs, while armed with a loaded firearm. Chief Judge Bastian also acknowledged that this was Zavala-Alvarez’s first felony offense, but because of the seriousness of the case, imposed a sentence of 135 months in federal custody.
U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref commended the law enforcement team who investigated the case, leading to the prosecution of Zavala-Alvarez and his co-defendants. She stated, “Fentanyl is a poison being pumped into our communities at an unprecedented rate with devastating effects. Even trace amounts in a fentanyl-laced pill can kill a person. I am grateful to for the state, federal, and local law enforcement officers who work together on a daily basis to identify the large-scale suppliers of this dangerous drug. Through these joint efforts to curb the distribution of fentanyl, we are building safer and stronger communities in Eastern Washington.”
“The Zavala-Alvarez’s drug trafficking organization was flooding our city streets with their methamphetamine and poisonous fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills, marketed as legitimate prescription pills to unsuspecting victims of the Tri-Cities community,” said Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent-in-Charge DEA Seattle Field Division. “Our neighborhoods are under siege from the criminal drug networks who use guns and violence to push these fake pills to the most vulnerable people in our communities. The drug and gun evidence seized in this investigation are examples of the link between violence and drug trafficking, which is responsible for causing the most harm in the United States. With the assistance of our law enforcement partners and the community, we will continue to drive down the overdoses and violence that are negatively impacting the people of Tri-Cities and their quality of life.”
This case was prosecuted under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. The OCDETF program provides supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved in the investigation of drug-related crimes.
This case was investigated by the DEA Tri-Cities Office, Border Patrol, the Tri-City METRO Drug Task Force, Kennewick Police Department, Richland Police Department, and Pasco Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Stephanie Van Marter, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.