Thirteen arrests in Washington and California for cartel-related drug trafficking

SEATTLE, Washington, October 30, 2022—Federal investigators—FBI and DEA—along with Seattle police seized two RVs loaded with methamphetamine and fake pills, then transported them from California to Washington along the I-5 corridor. A total of 19 individuals associated with three drug trafficking rings have been arrested and face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute.

Officers seized more than two kilograms of fentanyl, 4.5 kilograms of heroin, ten pounds of methamphetamine and 67 firearms from last Tuesday. Also seized by law enforcement: high-capacity rifle magazines, thousands of rounds of ammunition, two sets of body armor, one ballistic shield.

Due to the amount of drugs, many face a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison according to the Ministry of Justice. One defendant is charged with carrying a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking offense, which carries an enhanced penalty. One group of defendants is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Two indictments charging a total of eleven defendants were unsealed on October 25 following law enforcement activity in both states. Six other defendants were previously indicted and arrested in September. Despite the arrests in connection with the wiretapping investigation, the traffickers named in the latest indictments continued their business activities.

“The amount of dangerous narcotics seized during this investigation is staggering,” said Jacob D. Galvan, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Seattle Field Division. “Just looking at the seized fentanyl, as four out of 10 fake pills contain a lethal dose, it was enough to kill 132,000 people. This investigation shows that our state, local and federal partnerships are needed to keep our communities safe, healthy and free of these dangerous narcotics.”

“These individuals were bringing large quantities of meth, heroin, fentanyl and cocaine from Mexico across the border and down I-5 into the Pacific Northwest,” said US Attorney Brown. “Even when the drug caravan was pulled off the highway and detained by law enforcement, they were not deterred. Wiretapping revealed that various organizations continued to recruit drivers and vehicles to transport drugs throughout our county.

“This operation would be considered a success purely based on the volume of illegal drugs taken off the streets” said Richard A. Collodi, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “When we consider the number of drug trafficking organizations that have been dismantled and the number of illegal firearms recovered through our federal and local partnerships, the positive impact on the Puget Sound region will be felt immediately.”

Even before last Tuesday’s search of 14 locations in Washington and California, the totals of drugs, guns and cash seized by law enforcement were substantial: 1,016 pounds of meth; 9 kilos of fentanyl powder and 330,000 fentanyl pills; 25 kg of cocaine; and 15.5 kilos of heroin. Law enforcement officers seized 43 guns and more than $1 million in cash.

“Dangerous people are filling our streets with guns and drugs – and people are dying,” said Seattle Police Chief Adrian Z. Diaz. “The entire SPD, including its officers and investigators, has made removing firearms and illegal narcotics from our streets a top priority. We know that these months of investigations, arrests and seizures will result in lives saved. With more than 350,000 fentanyl pills taken this year by the SPD narcotics unit alone, and shootings in Seattle set to increase 29% in 2022, we thank our local and federal partners for helping prioritize this life-saving work.”

Those named in the indictment, unsealed on October 25, include:

  1. Jose Paleo, 29, of La Mirada, California
  2. Octavio Guzman, 24, of Huntington Park, California
  3. Glauco Guardado Rodriguez, 25, of Seattle
  4. Araceli Salas, 30, of Maywood, California
  5. Maria Rangel Aguilar, 44, of Huntington Park, California
  6. Miguel Thomas, 33, of Tukwila, Washington
  7. Tad Fulton, 48, of Seattle
  8. Ryan Holmquist, 34, of Issaquah, Washington
  9. Timothy Hursh, 38, of SeaTac, Washington
  10. Ryan Terry, 44, of Duval, Washington
  11. Abel Cruz, 32, of Des Moines, Washington

The six defendants were arrested earlier this year on September 21, 2022, indictment:

  1. Agustin Gutierrez Valencia, 32, of Kent, Washington
  2. Daniel Vazquez Arroyo, 32, of Kent, Washington
  3. Rosalio Reynoso Arellano, 51, of Los Angeles
  4. Ernesto Casillas, 46, of Los Angeles
  5. Benigno Hernandez aka Ivan Santos Arellano, 32, of Kent, Washington
  6. Jesus Toledo Pardo, 56, of SeaTac, Washington

On the basis of a criminal complaint, two other defendants were arrested last Tuesday:

  1. Luis Valenzuela-Haro, 32, of Seattle
  2. Michael Kinzel, 37, of Renton, Washington

The allegations contained in the indictment and criminal complaints are allegations only. A person is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The investigation was led by the FBI’s Seattle and Los Angeles field offices with assistance from the Bureau of Drug Enforcement, the Seattle Police Department, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), and Homeland Security Investigations, both in LA, so in Seattle.

This prosecution is part of an investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles top-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Casey Conzatti, Lyndsie Schmalz and Marci Ellsworth.

Content source: DEA, FBI and Seattle police seize 2 RVs full of meth and fentanyl


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