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Press Release

Local leader of violent drug trafficking ring sentenced to 12+ years in prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
Was shot by rival outside house where drugs were processed

Seattle – One of the leaders of a violent international drug trafficking organization that distributed heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine in the Puget Sound region was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 148 months in prison, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Jose Elias Barbosa, 37, of Kent, Washington, was sentenced to 5 years of supervised release to follow prison. U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said Barbosa had a leadership role in a massive drug trafficking organization that used guns and threats of violence to collect debts.

“This cartel connected drug trafficking ring damaged our community with dangerous drugs, and with their guns and threats of violence,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “Our focus is on curtailing the flow of dangerous and addictive drugs into western Washington. We need the community to work together to reduce the market for these substances.”

“Every day the men and women of the DEA in Seattle and throughout the US are working tirelessly to stop dangerous drugs from entering our country,” said Jacob D. Galvan, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Seattle Field Division. “We will continue with all of our partners in holding those like Mr. Barbosa accountable and protecting our communities from illicit narcotics, guns, and violence.”

According to records filed in the case, Barbosa pleaded guilty in August 2022, admitting he was one of the leaders of a transnational drug trafficking organization. Law enforcement has linked the organization to the CJNG cartel in Mexico. In November 2019, the DTO received a shipment of liquid methamphetamine concealed in candles. Barbosa helped DTO members to extract the methamphetamine and cook it into crystal form at a Port Orchard, Washington location.

While surveilling the Port Orchard residence, law enforcement heard multiple gunshots and later learned Barbosa had been shot in the collarbone. Members of the drug ring grew concerned law enforcement would arrive at the Port Orchard house, so they loaded the meth infused candle wax into a van. The van was later stopped by law enforcement who seized the meth and the processing equipment.

items for extracting meth from candle wax

In all, Barbosa was responsible for the distribution of at least 55 pounds of methamphetamine, 600 grams of heroin, and fentanyl throughout Western Washington and elsewhere.

The wiretapped phone calls revealed that Barbosa pursued those who owed drug debts to the organization and possessed firearms during the drug conspiracy. According to the plea agreement, on one occasion, Barbosa took a car from another DTO member to satisfy a drug debt. Barbosa later threatened that same DTO member. The wiretapped calls show Barbosa and others talked frequently about kidnappings, assaults, and even murders as ways to get debtors to pay up.

This effort 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 conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Tacoma Resident Office in partnership with Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (TNET), Kent Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, SeaTac Police Department, Thurston County Narcotics Team (TNT), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Internal Revenue Service- Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Amy Jaquette and C. Andrew Colasurdo.


Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or

Updated February 28, 2023

Violent Crime
Drug Trafficking