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Press Release

California man who led transnational drug trafficking organization sentenced to 15 years in prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Distributed deadly drugs to many counties in Washington, several other states, and even internationally

Seattle –A 35-year-old man from Bellflower, California who was a leader of a multi-state methamphetamine and fentanyl distribution ring was sentenced to 15 years in prison in U.S. District Court in Seattle for drug trafficking crimes, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Jose Maldonado-Ramirez has been in custody since his arrest in October 2021. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said, “I can’t remember a prior sentencing involving this quantity of methamphetamine.”

“Our office tries to combat the fentanyl crisis by identifying and prosecuting high-level operators of large-scale trafficking schemes. This case is a perfect example,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. “Maldonado-Ramirez was bringing deadly drugs to communities all over the country. Thanks to our collaboration with agents and local police, we have interrupted his entire operation.”

Jose Maldonado-Ramirez plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and conspiracy to commit money laundering in March 2023. A total of eighteen people were arrested and charged in relation to this case. According to records filed in the case, Maldonado-Ramirez’s narcotics operation was moving drugs from California and distributing them in King, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Mason, and Kitsap counties. The drug trafficking organization was also distributing drugs to locations in the Southeastern United States, the Midwest, the Northeast, and all the way to Fiji.

Over the course of an eighteen-month investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized approximately 128 pounds of methamphetamine, 37,000 fentanyl pills, and dozens of handguns. Concerningly, agents also intercepted a call between Maldonado-Ramirez and his girlfriend after a drug shipment was seized. They were discussing the identity of a local officer and plotting to kill him, according to the Government’s sentencing memorandum.

In asking for a sentence of 15 years, Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Andrew Colasurdo said in a statement to the court, “This [drug trafficking organization] was well-organized, well-sourced, and well-connected, and they were prepared to take drastic measures to protect what they had built as they openly discussed killing an officer during an intercepted conversation after a large shipment of drugs was seized.”

This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.  The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Seattle Field Division (SFD) Tacoma Resident Office (TRO) and Bremerton Police Department (BPD), with assistance from  Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement (TNET); the Seattle, Puyallup, Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, Bonney Lake, Tacoma,  and Lakewood Police Departments; the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office; Washington State Department of Corrections; Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET): Centralia and Chehalis Police Departments; Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team (VNET); and Washington State Patrol; Thurston Narcotics Team (TNT), Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, and Mason County Sheriff’s Office; United States Postal Inspections Service (USPIS), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) with support from Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas ( HIDTA).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys C. Andrew Colasurdo and Michelle Jensen.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Delaney Hewitt at 206-553-7970 or

Updated October 2, 2023

Drug Trafficking