Spokane –Today, James A. McDevitt, United States Attorney for the Eastern Judicial District of Washington, Rodney G. Benson, Special Agent in Charge, Seattle Field Division, Drug Enforcement Administration, Spokane County Sheriff Mark Sterk, Spokane Valley Police Chief Cal Walker, and Spokane City Police Chief Roger Bragdon, announced the culmination of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, termed Operation Replacements, that resulted in the arrest of (24) twenty-four suspects for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine within the United States.
Special Agent in Charge Rodney Benson said that “Operation Replacements is a two and a half year multi-agency investigation into a significant drug trafficking organization involved in bringing large quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine from Mexico through the Tri-Cities, to the greater Spokane area and then distributing these drugs to customers here and throughout the northwest, to include Idaho and Montana.” Agents and officers obtained ten (10) federal search warrants for residences in Spokane and Franklin Counties, Washington, and Kootenai County, Idaho. During the investigation, execution of search warrants, and other enforcement operations conducted this week, agents and officers seized 10 pounds of methamphetamine, 8 pounds of cocaine, one semi-automatic handgun, ten vehicles, and approximately $60,000 in U.S. currency. Also, agents and officers were able to establish a direct link between this criminal organization and drug traffickers operating from Mexico.
Arrests began on the evening of February 13, 2005, as agents and officers acted on specific information indicating that a target of this case was involved in the movement of drugs and money. A federal grand jury had issued sealed indictments for members of this criminal organization. To date, 15 indicted individuals are in custody. Another nine (9) individuals were arrested on state charges for suspicion of being involved in this organization’s drug trafficking enterprise. Additionally, two (2) illegal aliens were detained.
This joint investigation was spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Administration Spokane Resident Office Federal Task Force which worked in concert with agents, Sheriff Deputies, and Police Officers from DEA Yakima, Washington State Patrol, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Valley Police Department, Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force, Spokane City Police Department, Kootenai County Drug Task Force, Internal Revenue Service, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives.
Spokane County Sheriff Mark Sterk said “the Spokane Country Sheriff’s Office is thrilled with the results of this investigation. We are extremely happy to be a part of the DEA Task Force here in Spokane. The success of this investigation is a testament to the outstanding cooperative partnerships between all the law enforcement agencies in Eastern Washington.”
City of Spokane Valley Police Chief Cal Walker added that “this particular case is a prime example of what a collaborative effort between local and federal agencies can accomplish for our communities. In the world of supply and demand, we recognize the importance each part plays in the total picture of drug abuse. As a community we work at issues surrounding education and treatment, but we will also endeavor to focus on the supply of drugs. We cannot allow suppliers of illicit drugs to target our community as an “easy” place to distribute destruction to our citizens and children. This should send a clear message to anyone involved in narcotics trafficking. We are dedicated to the collaborative effort of investing our time and resources to make it as tough as we can for suppliers to bring drugs into our community. Together we are here, we are watching, and we will catch those involved in drug trafficking.”
The fifteen defendants are charged with violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 - Conspiracy to Distribute 5 Kilograms or More of a Mixture or Substance Containing Cocaine and 500 Grams or More of a Mixture or Substance Containing Methamphetamine, which carries a maximum possible penalty of 10 years to life in prison, are:
An Indictment Contains Allegations That a Defendant Has Committed a Crime. Every Defendant Is Presumed Innocent until and Unless Proven Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
Rodney G. Benson, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in-Charge, Seattle Field Division has provided a radio clip commenting on Operation Replacements. The radio actuality can be accessed by doing the following:
Dial 1-888-557-6494, and then dial mailbox number 701.