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Justice News

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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Drug Trafficker who Tortured Co-Conspirator over ‘Stolen’ Drugs Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

Leader of Heroin and Methamphetamine Trafficking Ring also Shipped Guns to Mexico

          A leader of a large drug trafficking group who tortured a co-conspirator to get information about a missing shipment of drugs, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 15 years in prison for three federal felonies related to the drug enterprise, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  RAMON ZAVALA-ZAZUETA, 44, of Kent, Washington was arrested in August 2015 hiding in a closet of his residence with a loaded semi-automatic pistol.  In the residence were heroin and drug trafficking materials.  During the course of the investigation law enforcement seized more than 29 pounds of meth, more than 18 pounds of heroin, six pounds of cocaine, approximately $178,000 in cash and 16 firearms, including five assault rifles.  At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman said, “What you’ve done is extraordinarily serious.  It is blight on the United States and on your home country of Mexico…. After you are released, go back to Mexico and do not return.”

          “No one wants to live in a community impacted by the drugs and violence that this defendant is responsible for,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  “I commend the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that worked together to eliminate this threat from our midst.  Western Washington is a better place because of their hard work.”

          The investigation involved court authorized wire-taps and extensive surveillance of members of the criminal group who trafficked large amounts of heroin and methamphetamine to the Northwest from California and Mexico.  When law enforcement moved in to make arrests they served search warrants on seventeen residences, three storage facilities and more than a dozen vehicles tied to the criminal group.  Search warrants were executed in: Auburn, Bellevue, SeaTac, Seattle, Tukwila, Renton, Kent, Port Orchard, and Everett, Washington.  In all 22 defendants were charged in the case.

            The investigation revealed that ZAVALA-ZAZUETA was not only bringing multiple pound loads of meth and heroin into Western Washington, he was obtaining firearms and sending them south to Mexico where drug cartels use them in their drug trafficking activities.  ZAVALA-ZAZUETA was at times trading drugs for stolen guns.  Some of the firearms recovered were two AR-15 style rifles, and two handguns.

            ZAVALA-ZAZUETA used one of the handguns to threaten a co-conspirator who he thought had information about a lost load of methamphetamine.  ZAVALA-ZAZUETA brought the co-conspirator and later the co-conspirator’s wife to his residence, tied the man up with duct tape, beat him, put a gun to his head, and used a red-hot knife to burn him.  ZAVALA-ZAZUETA tortured the man in an attempt to get information about the load of drugs he thought had been stolen.

          Those sentenced to date in this case include:

Ediberto Asevez Santillano, 36, of Renton, Washington – ten years in prison

Brian Christensen, 40, of Port Orchard, Washington – seven years in prison;

Will Edward Brambila, 27, of Kent, Washington – four years in prison;

Sendhy Amairany Felix Acevez, 22, of SeaTac, Washington – three years in prison;

Francisco Flores Penuelas, 44, of Kent, Washington – three years in prison;

Hanzel Knight, 43, of Auburn, Washington – five years in prison;

Heriberto Pacheco Juarez, 23, of Kent, Washington – five years in prison;

Alfonso Leos Villasenor, 21, of Kent, Washington – five years in prison;

Steven James Montgomery, 53, of Edmonds, Washington – four years in prison;

Ricardo Topete, 25, of Seattle – four years in prison.

Clarence Daniels, 36, of Kent, Washington – seven years in prison.

Joseph Moore, 49, Kent, Washington – five years in prison.

          This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.  The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the Seattle Police Department.  The searches and arrests involved agents and officers from: Homeland Security Investigations – Seattle, Port of Seattle Police Department, Washington State Patrol, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Snohomish Regional Drug And Gang Task Force, King County Sheriff’s Office, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Lynnwood Police Department, Kent Police Department, Renton Police Department, Auburn Police Department, Tukwila Police Department, Federal Way Police Department, and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.

          The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vince Lombardi and Thomas Woods.

Drug Trafficking
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crimes
Updated July 22, 2016