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Press Release

Leader of multi-state drug trafficking group sentenced to 9 years in prison for distribution of fentanyl, meth, and heroin

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Defendant found with 10,000 fentanyl pills, 20 pounds of meth, and more than a kilo of heroin

Seattle – A 39-year-old Woodinville, Washington, resident was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 108 months in prison, for his role as the leader of a conspiracy to distribute narcotics including fentanyl, meth, and heroin, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Jose Luis Ibarra-Valle has been in custody since his arrest in December 2020. At his sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones said, “You introduced large quantities of heroin and fentanyl into this community…drugs that are highly addictive and dangerous.”

“During the investigation, Mr. Ibarra-Valle was heard on the wire-tap talking about getting a firearm so he could go after drug customers who owed him money,” said U.S. Attorney Brown. “And when Mr. Ibarra-Valle learned someone had died from his fentanyl laced pills, he wasn’t worried about selling deadly pills, instead he only complained that the death would cause increased law enforcement scrutiny.”

The investigation began in March 2020 and involved telephone wiretaps beginning in July 2020. The investigation revealed Ibarra-Valle was bringing drugs up from California to Oregon and Western Washington. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized 16,000 fentanyl pills, 30 pounds of methamphetamine, and six pounds of heroin. Ibarra-Valle was stopped by law enforcement in October 2022 with 10,000 fentanyl pills, 20 pounds of methamphetamine, and more than a kilo of heroin.

Five members of the drug trafficking ring have already been convicted and sentenced:

JESUS GUTIERREZ-GARCIA, 33, Everett, WA was sentenced to 78 months in prison.

JESUS GARNICA-MELGOZA, 41, Seattle, WA was sentenced to 42 months in prison

SANTOS CARO, 37, Portland, Oregon was sentenced to five years in prison

LEE WALLETTE, 39, Mountlake Terrace, WA was sentenced to six years in prison

TISHA GIRTZ, 40, Lake Stevens, WA was sentencing to 54 months in prison

In asking for a ten-year sentence prosecutors noted the huge increase in overdose deaths. According to a national report, “between June 2020 and May 2021 more than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdose – more than twice the number of U.S. traffic fatalities or gun violence deaths during that period. Some two-thirds of these deaths – about 170 fatalities each day, primarily among those ages 18 to 45 – involved synthetic opioids.” Commission on Combatting Synthetic Opioid Trafficking – Final Report, Executive Summary, page ix, dated February 2022.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at .

The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Whatcom Gang and Drug Task Force, Washington State Patrol, Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force, United States Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, the Lake Stevens Police Department and Tulalip Police Department.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vince Lombardi.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Delaney Hewitt at (206) 553-4620 or

Updated April 7, 2023

Drug Trafficking