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Press Release

First of six-member drug trafficking ring bringing hundreds of pounds of narcotics to western Washington sentenced to 8.5 years in prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Group used RV’s and mail to ship drugs from California

Seattle –The first of six defendants tied to a significant drug trafficking ring that used recreational vehicles to transport massive quantities of methamphetamine, fentanyl pills, cocaine and heroin was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 102 months in prison, announced U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.  Ernesto Casillas, 48, has been in custody since his arrest on September 9, 2022. Casillas was arrested at a Kent, Washington hotel with more than three kilograms of heroin, more than five kilograms of fentanyl pills and more than six kilograms of cocaine. There were two firearms in the room as well as more than $145,000 in cash. At today’s sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Lauren King said, “Despite two sentences that were drug related you not only continued distributing drugs, but you did it on a massive scale. You did all of this for money without regard for the consequences.”

“Mr. Casillas was a member of one of three inter-related drug trafficking rings taken off the street in the fall of 2022,” said U.S. Attorney Gorman. “Even when one of the RV’s connected to the group was pulled off the highway and seized by law enforcement, the traffickers didn’t stop. Mr. Casillas not only traveled for the group with drugs, he mailed the drugs to other communities across the country.”

According to records filed in the case, Casillas was seen shipping packages of drug via FedEx to various addresses in Western Washington and elsewhere. In July and August 2022, he shipped five kilograms of cocaine to a Kent, Washington address, more than two kilograms of cocaine to a Columbus, Ohio, and approximately 20 pounds of methamphetamine to a Federal Way, Washington address.

On September 9, 2022, Casillas was arrested along with

  • Agustin Gutierrez Valencia, 33, of Kent, Washington
  • Daniel Vazquez Arroyo, 33, of Kent, Washington
  • Rosalio Reynoso Arellano, 52, of Los Angeles
  • Benigno Hernandez aka Ivan Santos Arellano, 33, of Kent, Washington
  • Jesus Toledo Pardo, 27, of SeaTac, Washington

On April 3, 2024, Casillas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and one count of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.

In asking for a 102-month prison sentence, prosecutors wrote to the court. “There is no question that this is a serious criminal offense given the staggering amount of drugs being transported by this DTO. Between two seizures over the course of four days, agents were able to seize approximately 749 pounds of methamphetamine, 25 kilograms of fentanyl laced pills, over seventeen kilograms of cocaine, over seven kilograms of heroin, and five kilograms of fentanyl powder. Mr. Casillas and his co-conspirators were in charge of pumping massive amounts of dangerous and deadly substances into the community.”

Prosecutors noted the harm fentanyl and methamphetamine are doing in the community. During 2024, in King County alone, there have already been 556 overdose deaths as of July 3, 2024, with 420 of those deaths involving fentanyl and 310 of them involving methamphetamine.

The investigation was 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 Attorney Casey Conzatti.

The case is U.S. v. Casillas CR22-151LK.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at

Updated July 10, 2024

Drug Trafficking