Eleven people arrested in Washington and California in connection with cartel connected drug trafficking schemes
Three interconnected drug trafficking groups – 17 total defendants indicted since late September 2022
Seattle – Three significant drug trafficking groups responsible for trafficking more than 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine and hundreds of thousands of fentanyl pills are facing federal charges tonight, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Two indictments charging a total of eleven defendants were unsealed late yesterday following law enforcement activity in two states. Six additional defendants were indicted and arrested in September. Despite the arrests tied to a wire-tap investigation, the traffickers named in the most recent indictments continued their trafficking activities.
“These individuals were bringing large loads of meth, heroin, fentanyl and cocaine from Mexico across the border and up I-5 to the Pacific Northwest,” said U.S. Attorney Brown. “Even when an RV loaded with drugs was pulled off the highway and seized by law enforcement, they weren’t deterred. The wiretap revealed various organizations continued to recruit drivers and vehicles to transport their drugs throughout our District.”
“Dangerous people are filling our streets with guns and drugs – and people are dying,” said Seattle Police Chief Adrian Z. Diaz. “The entire SPD, including its officers and investigators, have made getting firearms and illegal narcotics off our streets a top priority. We know this months-long investigation, arrests, and seizures will result in lives saved. With more than 350,000 fentanyl pills taken by SPD’s narcotics unit alone this year and shootings in Seattle up 29% in 2022, we thank our local and federal partners for their help in prioritizing this life-saving work.”
Even before yesterday’s search of 14 locations in Washington and California, the drug, gun, and cash totals seized by law enforcement were significant: 1,016 pounds of meth; 9 kilos of fentanyl powder and 330,000 fentanyl pills; 25 kilos of cocaine; and 15.5 kilos of heroin. Law enforcement seized 43 guns and more than $1 million in cash.
“This operation would be considered a success purely by the volume of illegal drugs taken off the streets” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “When we consider a drug trafficking organization was dismantled and the number of illegal firearms recovered through our federal and local partnerships, the positive impact to the Puget Sound region will be immediately felt.”
“The amount of dangerous narcotics seized during this investigation is staggering,” said Jacob D. Galvan, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Seattle Field Division. “Just looking at the fentanyl seized, since four out of 10 fake pills contain a lethal dose, that was enough to kill 132,000 people. This investigation shows our state, local and federal partnerships are needed so we can keep our communities safe, healthy, and free from these dangerous narcotics.”
Those named in the indictments unsealed yesterday include:
- Jose Paleo, 29, of La Mirada, California
- Octavio Guzman, 24, of Huntington Park, California
- Glauco Guardado Rodriguez, 25, of Seattle
- Araceli Salas, 30, of Maywood, California
- Maria Rangel Aguilar, 44, of Huntington Park, California
- Miguel Thomas, 33, of Tukwila, Washington
- Tad Fulton, 48, of Seattle
- Ryan Holmquist, 34, of Issaquah, Washington
- Timothy Hursh, 38, of SeaTac, Washington
- Ryan Terry, 44, of Duval, Washington
- Abel Cruz, 32, of Des Moines, Washington
Six defendants were arrested earlier this year on a September 21, 2022, indictment:
- Agustin Gutierrez Valencia, 32, of Kent, Washington
- Daniel Vazquez Arroyo, 32, of Kent, Washington
- Rosalio Reynoso Arellano, 51, of Los Angeles
- Ernesto Casillas, 46, of Los Angeles
- Benigno Hernandez aka Ivan Santos Arellano, 32, of Kent, Washington
- Jesus Toledo Pardo, 56, of SeaTac, Washington
Two additional defendants were arrested on criminal complaints yesterday:
- Luis Valenzuela-Haro, 32, of Seattle
- Michael Kinzel, 37, of Renton, Washington
As for totals from the searches yesterday, law enforcement seized more than two kilos of fentanyl, 4.5 kilos of heroin, ten pounds of methamphetamine and 67 firearms. Also taken by law enforcement: high-capacity rifle magazines, thousands of rounds of ammunition, two sets of body armor, one ballistic shield.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute. Because of the amount of drugs involved, many face a mandatory minimum ten years in prison. One defendant is charged with carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, which leads to an enhanced sentence. One group of defendants is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The charges contained in the indictment and criminal complaints are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigations were led by the FBI field offices in Seattle and Los Angeles, with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Seattle Police Department, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), and Homeland Security Investigations, both the LA and Seattle offices.
This prosecution is 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 case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Casey Conzatti, Lyndsie Schmalz, and Marci Ellsworth.