DEA, FBI and SPD operation across Puget Sound Region leads to the arrest of 36 subjects involved in a violent drug trafficking organization
(SEATTLE) - In the fourth major drug trafficking ring takedown in as many months, federal, state and local law enforcement officers fanned out across King, Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit and Thurston counties to execute search warrants and arrested 36 members of a drug trafficking organization. These arrests are the fourth takedown in a series of cases aimed at reducing drug and gang violence in Seattle, South King and North Pierce counties.
“DEA is in a race to save lives,” said Keith Weis, the Special Agent in Charge for the Pacific Northwest. “These strategic operations have stopped some of the most violent criminal groups operating throughout the Puget Sound Region from pushing dangerous drugs onto our communities’ most vulnerable members facing life or death struggles against addiction.”
“Over the last four months, more than 80 drug dealing conspirators moving meth, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl have been taken off our streets where they preyed on destructive addictions and used gun crime to further their trade,” said U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes. “For more than a year, local police worked with federal partners to build these cases, with the goal of addressing the shifting crime problems in South Sound communities.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed U.S. Attorneys to deploy their resources to identify and address ‘hot spots’ of violent crime. Working with local law enforcement across the South Sound, federal law enforcement identified Seattle, the Rainier and Kent Valleys and North Pierce County as an area of concern for drug and gun crime. Today’s takedown comes on the heels of three other law enforcement efforts involving wire-taps and surveillance to dismantle sophisticated drug trafficking rings linked to violence in those areas. The first takedown involved five defendants trafficking crack cocaine in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood the second, in March resulted in twenty arrests of heroin and meth traffickers operating primarily in South King County and the Tacoma area and in May, a third takedown dismantled two criminal groups trafficking methamphetamine in south King County.
According to records filed in the case, conspirators trafficked cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, illegal marijuana and fentanyl. Associates of some of the traffickers arrested today were shot and some killed in various shooting incidents in both Seattle and south King County. On the wiretap law enforcement heard conspirators talk about various shootings after they occurred, including the September 4, 2017 shooting outside a Renton hookah lounge. Among other things, conspirators discussed getting firearms after being shot at by rival gangs.
Taken together, these four operations resulted in the seizure of 75 guns, more than 95 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 32 pounds of heroin, more than seven pounds of cocaine (both crack and powder) as well as ecstasy and fentanyl. More than $327,000 in cash and 22 vehicles also were seized.
In addition, today alone law enforcement seized 12 pounds of heroin, more than two kilos of cocaine, a pound of methamphetamine, 124 pounds of marijuana, 41 firearms and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.
“The FBI is committed to holding violent gang members accountable for their actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Jay S. Tabb Jr., of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office. “The level of violence committed by these individuals has been detrimental to the South Sound community for years. Today’s arrests mark a major step toward addressing this problem.”
“Today, hundreds of law enforcement professionals came together to make our neighborhoods safer, taking criminals and drugs off the street and possibly saving lives,” said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. “As a former narcotics commander, I recognize the tireless work that goes into these investigations. Together with our federal and local partners, we have orchestrated one of the largest investigations in recent memory. A special thanks to the FBI, DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. This level of collaboration is unprecedented.”
“The U.S. Marshals have always believed in the power of collaboration, and the effectiveness of combining the resources and expertise of our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners for the common good. Today, that tradition of collaboration continues and we are proud to be a part of it”, said Acting U.S. Marshal Jacob Green.
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.
The defendants in these cases face a variety of drug and gun charges. The penalties range from five years in prison to a maximum of life in prison depending on the pertinent charge.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
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 the Seattle Police Department Gang and Narcotics Units, FBI Seattle Safe Streets Task Force, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Other agencies providing investigative assistance include ATF, USMS, and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Yesterday’s searches and arrests involved agents and officers from: DEA, FBI, ATF, HSI, USMS, SPD, Auburn Police Department, Bellevue Police Department, Bothell Police Department, Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Des Moines Police Department, Everett Police Department, Fife Police Department, Kent Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), Kirkland Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Marysville Police Department, Monroe Police Department, Mount Vernon Police Department, Mukilteo Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), Renton Police Department, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Snohomish County Drug and Gang Task Force, Tacoma Police Department, Thurston County Narcotics Task Force, Tukwila Police Department, U.S Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Washington Department of Corrections, Washington State Patrol, and the Yakima Police Department, and the following regional SWAT teams, SPD SWAT, Valley SWAT, North Sound Metro SWAT, Region 1 SWAT, Pierce County Metro SWAT, King County Sheriff’s Office TAC-30, Washington State Patrol SWAT, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office SWAT, and Bellevue SWAT.
In addition, the operations were conducted with the support of the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) and SWAT teams from the FBI’s Salt Lake City, Portland, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Denver field offices. DEA’s Special Response Team’s (SRT) from Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, and San Diego assisted in today’s operations. This investigation was supported by Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and the Special Operations Division (SOD).
The indictments returned are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vince Lombardi, Erin Becker and Nicholas Manheim.