News Release
April 3, 2008
Contact: Steve Hooten
Number: 206 553-1155

Arrests Target Methamphetamine Trafficking Ring
Crime Family Smuggled Multi-Pound Loads of Highly Pure Meth from Mexico to California, Washington, and Georgia

APR 3 -- (Tacoma, WA) – DEA Special Agent in Charge Arnold R. Moorin and United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jeffrey C. Sullivan announced today the dismantlement of a methamphetamine drug trafficking organization that had been operating in Washington for the past decade.

Twenty-two members of a Mexico based criminal organization were arrested yesterday after a fourteen month investigation led to indictments charging them with Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering.  The Barragan Drug Trafficking Organization is alleged to distribute hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine in Washington State each month.  As much as 200 pounds of methamphetamine are manufactured in Michoacan, Mexico each month and are smuggled into the United States for distribution by various members of the organization.

“Drug trafficking organizations based in Mexico do not confine themselves by our boundaries, borders or laws.  They have moved into our neighborhoods, and with them they have brought their illegal and often violent activities which represent a serious threat to the safety and well being of our communities,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Arnold R. Moorin.  “The key to the success of this operation was the tenacity and commitment of the law enforcement men and women, who collectively focused on the regional harm caused by the Barragan Organization.  That unwavering focus ultimately resulted in the complete dismantlement of a very large and long established drug trafficking organization, who were only interested in profiting from the misery of the citizens in the state of Washington and beyond.” 

In coordinated law enforcement sweeps over the last two days, an estimated 300 agents and officers served 20 federal search warrants.  In addition to the federal arrests, 19 defendants face state charges.  Over the course of the fourteen month investigation, code named Operation “Capital Cleansing” law enforcement authorities seized 89 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, a highly pure form of the drug. In addition, 50 firearms and more than a quarter of a million dollars in currency were seized from the Barragan Organization.

Particularly disturbing to authorities during the course of yesterday’s operation, was the discovery that nine juveniles and infants, whose ages ranged from three months to fifteen years old, were inside residential locations searched during the course of yesterday’s operation. All of the children were placed into the custody of Washington Child Protective Services.        

According to records filed in the case, the Barragan Drug Trafficking Organization is led by three brothers, one of whom remains in Mexico. Ulises and Hermino Barragan-Mendoza control operations here.  Other key players are the brothers’ cousins, Jose Barragan Zepeda, Epifanio Barragan Estrada, Fernando Barragan Zepeda, and their uncle, Abraham Barragan Zepeda.  The organization is alleged to control the methamphetamine distribution network along every step of the route from their hometown of Arteaga, in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, to various stash houses in California and Washington.

Some of the defendants are making their initial appearances on the charges in U.S. District court in Tacoma today at 2:30.  Others made their initial appearances following their arrests yesterday.  Trial is set for June 10, 2008 in front of U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle.

“These arrests have removed the largest drug trafficking organization in south Puget Sound and on the Olympic Peninsula.” said United States Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan.  “For many years these defendants spread their highly addictive poison, profiting on the pain of others, shipping their proceeds back to Mexico to fund construction of lavish homes and other luxuries.”

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.  The case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Tacoma Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol, Puyallup Police Department, Bonney Lake Police Department, Auburn Police Department, Washington Department of Corrections, Pierce County Prosecutors Office, Thurston County Sheriff’s Department, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Department, Lakewood Police Department, Northwest HIDTA.  Additionally these agencies contributed to this law enforcement effort: US Marshal’s Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Pacific County Sheriff's Department, Columbia River Drug Task Force, Lewis County Sheriff Office, Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office, Wahkiakum County Sheriff’s Office, Kelso Police Department, Longview Police Department, Woodland Police Department, Tumwater Police Department, Lacey Police Department, Olympia Police Department, Aberdeen Police Department, Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team, Fife Police Department, Missoula HIDTA.