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Press Release

Leader of Tri-cities Drug Trafficking Organization Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington

Richland, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Etzael Bejar-Cardenas, was sentenced on February 22, 2024, after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute 400 Grams or More of a Mixture or Substance Containing a Detectable Amount of Fentanyl. United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke imposed a sentence of 180 months imprisonment to be followed by 5 years of supervised release.

According to information presented during court proceedings, multiple members Bejar-Cardenas’ family have been involved in drug trafficking in the Tri-Cities and Seattle area for an extended period of time.  This group was responsible for trafficking hundreds of thousands of deadly fentanyl pills into those communities.

In March 2022, search warrants were executed in the Tri-Cities area at several locations related to the investigation.  A substantial amount (over 1 kilogram) of fentanyl pills, as well as multiple firearms were located in a “stash house” run by this family in Pasco, Washington. 

When police knocked and announced their presence at the home where Bejar-Cardenas was staying at the time, a 15-year-old flushed an unknown quantity of fentanyl pills down the toilet.  During a search of that the mother’s bedroom, multiple firearms were located in a safe with $30,000 in U.S. Currency, and an AR-15 style rifle was located under the teenager’s bunk bed.  There also were a small amount of loose fentanyl pills located on the floor of the residence, where an infant resided along with other members of Bejar-Cardenas’s family.

Of note, Bejar-Cardenas was not located during the execution of the March 2022 search warrants.  Instead, agents later learned Bejar-Cardenas had seen the search warrants being executed on a security camera and fled to Mexico.  While in Mexico, Bejar-Cardenas continued his drug trafficking activities.  He continued to take orders from customers in Eastern Washington and directed others in the United States to deliver the drugs. 

Unbeknownst to Bejar-Cardenas, he began communicating with an undercover law enforcement officer, and solicited that individual to help him set up a new ‘stash house’ to store 50,000 fentanyl pills after law enforcement raided the previous one.

When Bejar-Cardenas later returned to the United States, he was arrested.  While detained in custody awaiting the disposition of his case, he offered others housed with him the number for his “uncle,” who was the head of the drug trafficking organization, so those individuals would have a source of supply of drugs to sell when they got out of jail.

In fashioning the appropriate sentence, Judge Dimke noted the nature and circumstances of this offense were extremely serious, as Bejar-Cardenas and his family trafficked a substantial amount of fentanyl and were in possession of a substantial number of firearms.  Judge Dimke ruled that Bejar-Cardenas’ pattern of behavior showed he was not deterred, despite law enforcement interventions, which gave him an opportunity to change course.  Judge Dimke addressed the nature of the offense – noting that it was clear Bejar-Cardenas family was involved in this organization.  Based on the totality of the circumstances, Judge Dimke advised she was “thoroughly convinced” a substantial sentence was needed to convince him to stop and hopefully to serve as an example to younger family members to not follow in Bejar-Cardenas’ footsteps.  

“Mr. Bejar-Cardenas was a key member of a large drug trafficking organization and directed distribution of a large number of deadly drugs across Eastern Washington,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Mr. Bejar-Cardenas exposed minor children and even an infant to deadly fentanyl and to his drug trafficking activities.  After he was taken into custody, Mr. Bejar Cardenas brazenly attempted to distribute illegal narcotics. Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat facing this country. The Eastern District of Washington is safer and stronger today as a result of the tireless work of our law enforcement partners and federal prosecutors.”

“The fentanyl crisis is the most dangerous drug threat I have seen in my 26 years of Federal drug enforcement,” said David F. Reames, Special Agent in Charge, DEA Seattle Field Division. “Fentanyl traffickers like Mr. Bejar-Cardenas act with total disregard for the lives lost or ruined for their profit, but this sentence shows the resolve of the DEA and our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to confront this threat and safeguard our community.”

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Caitlin Baunsgard.


Robert Curry

Public Affairs Specialist 

Updated March 8, 2024

Drug Trafficking