Seventeen Arrested in Connection with Lengthy Drug Trafficking Investigation
Criminal Group Distributed Heroin and Methamphetamine throughout Puget Sound Region
A lengthy drug trafficking investigation of a criminal group with ties to California and Mexico has resulted in seventeen arrests and the seizure of pound quantities of methamphetamine and heroin, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. Over the last 36 hours, teams of local, state and federal law enforcement agents searched twenty locations across the Puget Sound region in the culmination of an 18 month investigation involving court authorized wire-taps and extensive surveillance of members of the criminal group. Some of those arrested made their initial appearances on the indictments yesterday in U.S. District Court in Seattle. One additional defendant is appearing at 2:00 today.
“Heroin, and methamphetamine continue to wreak havoc in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “I commend the law enforcement professionals who investigated this drug trafficking organization, taking large loads of drugs off the street, while also gathering key evidence to make these arrests and prosecutions possible.”
Beginning early yesterday morning, federal state and local law enforcement officers served search warrants on seventeen residences, three storage facilities and more than a dozen vehicles tied to the criminal group. Search warrants were executed in: Auburn, Bellevue, SeaTac, Seattle, Tukwila, Renton, Kent, Port Orchard, and Everett, Washington. An indictment and criminal complaints have been filed charging 22 defendants with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances including methamphetamine and heroin. Some of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. During the course of the investigation law enforcement seized more than 29 pounds of meth, more than 18 pounds of heroin, 6 pounds of cocaine, approximately $178,000 in cash and sixteen firearms, including five assault rifles.
Those arrested include:
VERONICA ACEVES SANTILLANO, 28, of Renton, Washington
EDIBERTO ASEVEZ SANTILLANO, 36, of Renton, Washington
BRIAN CHRISTENSEN, 39, of Port Orchard, Washington
WILL EDWARD BRAMBILA, 26, of Kent, Washington
SANDRO CRIOLLO, 22, of Seattle
SENDHY AMAIRANY FELIX ACEVEZ, 21, of SeaTac, Washington
FRANCISCO FLORES PENUELAS, 43, of Kent, Washington
JOSE GONZALEZ MEDINA, 35, of Everett, Washington
EDUARDO GUZMAN VALENZUELA, 23, of Kent, Washington
MARICARMEN HERNANDEZ, 34, of Renton, Washington
HANZEL KNIGHT, 42, of Auburn, Washington
HERIBERTO PACHECO JUAREZ, 22, of Kent, Washington
RUBEN RODRIGUEZ RODRIGUEZ, 23, of Renton, Washington
RICARDO TOPETE, 24, of Seattle
RAMON ZAVALA ZAZUETA, 44, of Kent, Washington
JESUS GASTELUM-PAYAN, 20, of Kent, Washington
ALFONSO LEOS VILLASENOR, 20, of Kent, Washington
“This investigation is a great example of law enforcement collaboration,” said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “The Seattle Police Department will continue to work closely with our federal, state and local partners to eliminate the flow of deadly drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine to our region.”
Due to the drug quantities involved, some of the defendants face mandatory minimum sentences of ten years in prison. 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. All of the defendants appearing on indictments yesterday entered pleas of “not guilty.” Trial was set for September 28, 2015 in front of Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the Seattle Police Department. The searches and arrests involved agents and officers from: Homeland Security Investigations – Seattle, Port of Seattle Police Department, Washington State Patrol, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Snohomish Regional Drug And Gang Task Force, King County Sheriff’s Office, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Lynnwood Police Department, Kent Police Department, Renton Police Department, Auburn Police Department, Tukwila Police Department, Federal Way Police Department, and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vince Lombardi and Thomas Woods.