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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

Friday, November 22, 2013

Arizona Man who Transported Drugs North and Weapons South into Mexico Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

Mid-Level Participant In Meth, Heroin, And Gun Smuggling Ring

A drug and gun smuggler based in Arizona was sentenced yesterday in U.S.  District Court in Seattle to 15 years in prison for his role in a wide ranging international drug conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  RAUL ANCHONDO, 29, was convicted in May 2013, 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.  Judge Robert S. Lasnik also imposed five years of supervised release as part of the sentence.

“This defendant was personally involved in moving large amounts of heroin and methamphetamine, drug proceeds, and military-style firearms on behalf of a violent drug cartel,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “The drugs directly contribute to the cycle of addiction and abuse in Western Washington and the drug proceeds and firearms feed violence and destruction in Mexico.”

ANCHONDO was 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.  Conspiracy leader Victor Berrelleza-Verduzco was sentenced in September 2013 to 20 years in prison.

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.

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.

Updated March 23, 2015