News Release
October 22, 2009
Contact: Jodie Underwood
Number: (206) 553-5443

Eighteen Arrested for Drug Trafficking Tied to "La Familia" Cartel

OCT 22 -- (Seattle) –As part of a nationwide takedown dubbed “Project Coronado”, sixteen people were indicted in the Western District of Washington for conspiracy to distribute large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine in connection with the “La Familia” cartel. The investigation began in December 2008 and linked the distribution of methamphetamine and cocaine to the cartel based in Michoacan, Mexico. Of the sixteen people indicted last week, 14 have been arrested and two remain fugitives. Four more defendants are charged by complaint in federal court. On October 21, 2009, law enforcement officers searched 19 residences and 22 vehicles in Washington and California, and seized approximately 28 pounds of methamphetamine, 10 kilograms cocaine, seven firearms and approximately $200,000 in cash. Several of the cars associated with the drug organization were equipped with secret compartments for carrying drugs and money.

“This is a salient day for law enforcement,” stated Acting Special Agent in Charge Mark Thomas. “Project Coronado was an effective law enforcement tool which exposed the expansive and entrenched nature of this drug trafficking organization. The organization expanded its operations from Mexico, into other states, and ultimately to the Pacific Northwest. Today's arrests are the direct result of the cohesive efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that combined resources and expertise to infiltrate, and neutralize this international drug trafficking organization.”

These defendants are in federal custody:

Arturo J. Barajas Garcia, 32, Renton, Washington
Rosendo Barragan-Barragan, 53, Monroe, Washington
Gudelio J. Orozco Gomez, 27, Kent, Washington
Demetrio Saldana Robles, 26, Monroe, Washington
Juan Carlos Saldana Robles, 23, Monroe, Washington
Jorge Ochoa Avila, 39, Monroe, Washington
Benustiano Carranza Lua, 41, Monroe, Washington
Uriel Baldovinos Cruzaley, 29, Renton, Washington
Emmanuel Valdovinos Cruzaley, 26, Renton, Washington
Jesus Medina Contreras, 42, Everett, Washington
Candido Hernandez, 41, Monroe, Washington
Francisco Villanueva Vega, 37, Snohomish, Washington
Jesenia Vazquez, 26, Kent, Washington
Trent Thomas Jesmer, 31, Monroe, Washington
Jesenia Vazquez, 26, Kent, Washington

These defendants have been indicted and are fugitives:     

Daniel Barajas, 36, San Diego, California
Cesar Barajas Padilla, 32, Mexico

Four additional defendants were charged by complaint in Washington with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances:

Jose Jesus Aguilar-Padilla, 22, Monroe, Washington
Christopher Meter, 34, Monroe, Washington
Liberado Sanchez-Magana, 41, San Jose, California (arrested in California)
Jorge Luis Solorio-Mendoza, 18, San Jose, California (arrested in California)

According to a search warrant affidavit and criminal complaint unsealed this morning in federal court, the conspirators are allegedly responsible for transporting large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine from California to the Puget Sound region for distribution. Members of the drug organization were under surveillance by law enforcement as they arranged drug deals and sold drugs to an undercover officer. In one case detailed in the search warrant affidavit, a conspirator brought a young child about 4-years-old to a drug deal in the parking lot of a Monroe supermarket.

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 was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the South Snohomish County Narcotics Task Force consisting of Lynnwood Police Department, Mountlake Terrace Police Department, and Edmonds Police Department, as well as the Burien Police Department, King County Sheriff's Office, the Seattle Police Department, Monroe Police Department, NW HIDTA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Marshal's Service.