Thirteen people were arrested and law enforcement seized 50 pounds of crystal meth, $160,000 of cash and seven guns in the culmination of a lengthy investigation of Pierce County based drug trafficking ring, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. The Drug Enforcement Administration led the wire-tap investigation which identified the members of a criminal conspiracy distributing significant quantities of meth and heroin throughout Western Washington. The investigation uncovered a conversion lab in Spanaway, Washington where liquid meth was processed into highly addictive crystal methamphetamine. Twelve of the people arrested appeared in U.S. District Court in Tacoma today, charged with a variety of drug trafficking offenses.
“This criminal group built a business in moving two drugs, meth and heroin, that destroy lives and families and tear apart communities,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “Through the course of this case, law enforcement took more than 66 pounds of crystal meth off the streets and more than two and a half pounds of heroin. Federal and local partners working together have dismantled a major pipeline for drugs.”
“Methamphetamine and heroin are a significant threat to the Pacific Northwest,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. “This organization was not only distributing heroin and methamphetamine, but was also converting the methamphetamine into a highly addictive form of crystal methamphetamine. I commend the dedication and hard work of all the law enforcement agencies that brought these drug traffickers to justice.”
When 17 search warrants were served on Sunday and Monday February 23 and 24, 2014, law enforcement seized 50 pounds of crystal meth and two gallons of liquid meth that was in the process of being converted to crystal meth. The conversion of liquid meth to crystal meth is a potentially dangerous process involving highly flammable chemicals such as acetone. Over the year-long course of the investigation law enforcement seized 66 pounds of crystal meth, 2.5 pounds of heroin, a total of $310,000, 25 vehicles (some with hidden compartments for drugs and cash), and seven firearms (three of them stolen). A photo of liquid meth is attached to this press release.
Those charged in the case include:
LUIS HERNANDEZ, 58, Tacoma, Washington
JUAN HERNANDEZ, 34, Kent, Washington
JAIME HERNANDEZ, 29, Tacoma, Washington
RUVISELA HERNANDEZ, 35, Lakewood, Washington
PEDRO PERALTA, 41, Lakewood, Washington
EZEQUIEL SANCHEZ-CARMONA, 21, Tacoma, Washington
WALTER VARGAS, 38, Tacoma, Washington
ANDREW GARDEE, 23, Puyallup, Washington
BRITNEY SIKKENGA, 21, Puyallup, Washington
MICHAEL ECKENRODE, 38, Tacoma, Washington
GERARDO GARCIA, 20, Oakland, California
CARLOS MESINA-OROZCO, 22, Tacoma, Washington
JORGE OROZCO-MAGANA, 37, Tacoma, Washington
The charges contained in the complaint 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.
Due to the large amounts of drugs involved and the presence of firearms, defendants could face mandatory minimums of ten years in prison to life in prison if convicted.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. This investigation was led by DEA Tacoma in conjunction with Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team, Lakewood Police Department, West Sound Narcotics Team, and Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Lisca Borichewski and Brian Werner.