Drug Enforcement Administration

Seattle

Keith R. Weis, Special Agent in Charge

February 25, 2014

Contact: Jodie Underwood

Phone Number: (206) 553-5443

Thirteen Arrested In Connection With Meth And Heroin Distribution Ring

Organization maintained dangerous lab for converting liquid meth to crystal

SEATTLE - Thirteen people were arrested and law enforcement seized 50 pounds of crystal meth, $160,000 in cash and seven guns in the culmination of a lengthy investigation of a Pierce County based drug trafficking ring.  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.

"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 (some with hidden compartments for drugs and cash), and seven (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 (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.
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