Multi-State International Drug Trafficking Organization Targeted in 18-Month Investigation
Significant Bitcoin Money Launderer Arrested as Key Link between Drug Proceeds and Ring Leader in Mexico
A law enforcement operation making arrests and serving search warrants over the last two days targeted a multi-state drug trafficking network led by drug cartel members in Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. The drug trafficking organization distributing heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine was active in Washington State, New York, Arizona, Oregon, California, Tennessee, and Utah. The group allegedly used a Manhattan Beach, California, cryptocurrency business to launder and transfer money to Mexico. The owner of that business, GREGORY DAVID WERBER, 56, was arrested last night and appeared in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California today. Other defendants appeared in U.S. District Court in Tacoma today.
“Overdoses involving fentanyl are growing at an alarming rate in Washington State,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “We are committed to bringing all needed resources to identifying and prosecuting groups that distribute this deadly poison in our communities. I commend the Drug Enforcement Administration and their federal, state and local law enforcement partners who developed the evidence that led to the arrests that occurred today.”
Over December 5th and 6th, 2018, more than 400 federal, state and local law enforcement officers executed fifty-one federal arrest warrants and search warrants on more than 50 buildings and 35 vehicles. In Western Washington the group distributed heroin, crystal methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone pills in Pierce, Kitsap, King, Skagit and Snohomish Counties. Over the course of the investigation law enforcement seized thousands of counterfeit oxycodone pills tainted with fentanyl, a powerful and potentially deadly opioid. Following one seizure from a vehicle, Washington State Patrol troopers were treated for their accidental exposure.
“The dangerous pills containing fentanyl flowing through this pipeline operated by this Western Washington distribution network has been shut down,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis. “Those profiting from pushing illicit opioids such as fentanyl and heroin into our most vulnerable communities will be met with a significant law enforcement response.”
The investigation began 18 months ago with drug seizures by the Bremerton Police Department. More recently, on November 28, 2018, law enforcement seized more than 13 pounds of heroin from the engine compartment of a semi-truck driven by a frequent smuggler for the ring. In addition to coded cell phone conversations, many of the members of the ring also communicated via Facebook messenger. Today alone law enforcement seized 39 firearms and more than 4 kilos of heroin.
“An agency the size of Bremerton can impact crime on a larger scale when it is able to partner with agencies like the DEA,” said Bremerton Chief of Police James Burchett. “I am very proud of the hard work and dedication of all the officers and agents that made this operation a reality.”
Those arrested in the last 24 hours include:
CARLOS EDUARDO LOPEZ HERNANDEZ, 22, Kent, WA
JAIME HEREDIA CASTRO, 36, Burlington, WA
JUAN AVILES BERRELLEZA, 23, Kent, WA
JOSE LUIS SIERRA BARRIENTOS, 39, Burlington, WA
HECTOR MANUEL URIAS MORENO, 27, Everett, WA
URIEL ZELAYA, 22, Auburn, WA
JESUS RENE SARMIENTO VALENZUELA, 33, Kent, WA
MONIQUE GREEN, 40, Federal Way, WA
ANDREW CAIN KRISTOVICH, 34, Lynnwood, WA
BRIAN LIVELY, 44, Snohomish, WA
GERALD KEITH RIGGINS, 52, Puyallup, WA
ESTHER LA RENA SCOTT, 41, Snohomish, WA
MICHAEL JOHN SCOTT, 40, Snohomish, WA
KAREN SURYAN, 60, Seattle, WA
ORLANDO BARAJAS, 40, Burlington, WA
OSCAR HUMBERTO CARRILLO SALCEDO, 22, Tukwila, WA
ALLEX HUBLY, 27, Tacoma, WA
DAVID HUBLY, 30, Tacoma, WA,
CHARLES JOSLYN, 38, Bonney Lake, WA
COLIN BECCARIA, 28, Puyallup, WA
JAKE WILSON, 22, Spanaway, WA
JERRY A. RODRIGUEZ, 27, Tacoma, WA
KURTIS NEMYER, 49, Puyallup, WA
LINDSAY NEMYER, 32, Puyallup, WA
JOSH MENDIOLA, 27, Graham, WA
NATASHA DJORDJEVIC, 36, Tacoma, WA
TIMMY CRAWFORD, 60, Auburn, WA
BLAKE HYNEK, 29, Edgewood, WA
MARTIN DEAN GREGORY, 32, Puyallup, WA
This investigation was conducted by the DEA Tacoma Resident Office and the Bremerton Police Department, with significant assistance from the Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (TNET), Special Operations Division, Chantilly, Virginia and Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).
The multi-agency takedown operation was supported by DEA Seattle; DEA Los Angeles; DEA San Diego, DEA San Francisco and DEA Phoenix; as well as Homeland Security Investigations; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives; Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Marshals Service; West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team; Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team; Grays Harbor Drug Task Force; Snohomish County Regional Drug Task Force; Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team; Skagit County Inter-local Drug Enforcement Unit; Thurston County Narcotics Enforcement Team; Lewis County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team; Pierce County Sheriff’s Department; King County Sheriff’s Department; Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office; Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office; Aberdeen Police Department; Auburn Police Department; Bothell Police Department; Bremerton Police Department; Burlington Police Department; Fife Police Department, Seattle Police Department; Tacoma Police Department; Lakewood Police Department; Bonney Lake Police Department; Kent Police Department; Everett Police Department; Mill Creek Police Department; Quinault Nation Police Department; Hoquiam Police Department; Washington State Department of Corrections; Washington State Patrol; Mount Vernon Police Department; Oregon State Police; Washington and Oregon National Guard.
Tactical operations were conducted by DEA’s Special Response Teams (SRT) from Seattle and San Francisco. Additional support was provided by Bremerton Special Operations Group; Lakewood Special Operations; FBI SWAT; King County SWAT; Kitsap County SWAT; Mount Vernon SWAT; North Sound Metro SWAT, Pierce County Metro SWAT; Pierce County SWAT; Seattle PD SWAT; Snohomish County SWAT; Washington State Patrol SWAT; Skagit County HRT; Valley SWAT; and the U.S. Marshal’s Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Marci Ellsworth and Karyn Johnson.