Seattle – Seven people have been indicted in the Western District of Washington in an investigation that began with a drug trafficking ring in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Over the past 36 hours, law enforcement has taken all of the defendants into custody, with three arrested in Arizona and four arrested in Seattle. In addition, two people named in indictments in Pittsburgh were arrested in the Seattle area. Those arrested in Seattle are being detained at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, Washington pending future hearings.
“This investigation shows how drug trafficking rings interact across the country – drugs coming into Arizona are then transferred to distributors as geographically distinct as Seattle and Pittsburgh,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “Prosecutors and law enforcement here have worked cooperatively to arrest and prosecute the key players responsible for hundreds of thousands of potentially deadly doses.”
“Cartel activity of this nature is of particular concern to HSI, and we continue to prioritize investigations into individuals and organizations that illicitly introduce deadly fentanyl and firearms into our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “This national operation has brought 90 individuals to justice, taken a large amount of guns off of our streets, and serves as a message to other fentanyl trafficking organizations that we will not stop; for the safety and security of the communities that we serve, we can’t stop as innocent lives are at risk.”
According to records filed in the case, a key member of the drug conspiracy was arrested in Seattle on January 11, 2023. Bryce Hill is charged in the Western District of Pennsylvania with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The Pittsburgh investigation began in 2018 and became a wiretap investigation in the spring of 2022. The investigation identified Bryce aka “Benji” Hill as a key distributor of drugs in the Seattle area. Hill traveled, or had his associates travel, between Arizona and Seattle, bringing in drugs and taking drug proceeds back to conspirators in Phoenix.
When investigators served search warrants on residences in Seattle associated with Hill, they seized five firearms – including assault style weapons and those with extended magazines.
One firearm had been modified to fire fully automatic. Hill is prohibited from possessing firearms due to previous convictions. At Hill’s apartment in Seattle, where he was arrested, law enforcement seized about 27 kilos of fentanyl pills. The drugs were still in the suitcases they had traveled in from Arizona. Law enforcement also seized more than $387,000 in cash.
In all, some 60 people have been charged in the Western District of Pennsylvania. Over the past ten months, investigators in the Pennsylvania-based case have seized more than 673 pounds of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills, over 400 pounds of methamphetamine, and more than 16 pounds each of fentanyl powder and cocaine, over $600,000 in cash, nine vehicles, and 47 firearms.
Yesterday alone, in connection with the arrests in the Seattle area, law enforcement seized:
- Seven additional firearms for a total of 21 associated with this case
- Approximately $500,000 cash
- A half kilo of cocaine
- Smaller amounts of crack cocaine and fentanyl pills
The seven people indicted in Seattle allegedly conspired with Bryce ‘Benji’ Hill in the drug distribution scheme. Those indicted include:
Cierra Ward, 21, of Kent, Washington
David Theodore Carr, 43, of Phoenix, Arizona
Jaren Christopher Tran, 43, of Seattle
Shaunyae Allen, 37, of Oak Harbor, Washington
Jose Cortes 34, of Marysville, Washington
Aliana Lyla Khan, 34 of Scottsdale, Arizona
Kayla Vigil, 28, of Tempe, Arizona
Additionally, two defendants from Western Washington were arrested on an indictment from the Western District of Pennsylvania:
Alicia Parks, 25, of Kent, Washington
Mohamed Kariye, 34 of Kent, Washington
“This organization sold their illicit narcotics throughout the U.S., from the Southwest border to the Pacific Northwest and all the way to the East Coast,” said Jacob D. Galvan, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Seattle Field Division. “Our federal partnerships once again have proven invaluable in defeating these organizations and holding their members accountable. According to DEA labs, 6 out of 10 fake pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. With the seizure in one Seattle apartment, our partnerships saved 162,000 lives.”
The charges contained in the indictment 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.
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 www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
In the Western District of Washington, the investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) with assistance from the FBI, DEA, and ATF. In Pennsylvania the investigation is being led by HSI and the FBI.
The case in the Western District of Washington is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vince Lombardi and Michelle Jensen.