U.S. Attorney Nick Brown of the Western District of Washington on Wednesday announced the arrests of 11 suspects accused of trafficking enough fentanyl to kill about 132,000 people.
The suspects were part of three significant drug trafficking groups responsible for transporting hundreds of thousands of fentanyl pills and other dangerous drugs.
“These individuals were bringing large loads of meth, heroin, fentanyl and cocaine from Mexico across the border and up I-5 to the Pacific Northwest,” Brown said in a Wednesday statement. “Even when an RV loaded with drugs was pulled off the highway and seized by law enforcement, they weren’t deterred. The wiretap revealed various organizations continued to recruit drivers and vehicles to transport their drugs throughout our District.”
On Tuesday, law enforcement conducted a search in 12 locations throughout Washington and California and seized more than 2 kilograms of fentanyl, 4.5 kilograms of heroin, 10 pounds of methamphetamine and 67 firearms, as well as high-capacity rifle magazines, thousands of rounds of ammunition, two sets of body armor and one ballistic shield.
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Even before law enforcement conducted a search on Tuesday, authorities had seized 1,1016 pounds of meth, 9 kilograms of fentanyl powder, 330,000 fentanyl pills, 25 kilograms of cocaine, 15.5 kilograms of heroin, 43 guns and $1 million in cash.
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“Just looking at the fentanyl seized, since four out of 10 fake pills contain a lethal dose, that was enough to kill 132,000 people,” said Richard A. Collodi, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “This investigation shows our state, local and federal partnerships are needed so we can keep our communities safe, healthy, and free from these dangerous narcotics.”
Seattle Police Chief Adrian Z. Diaz said the months-long investigation, including arrests and drug seizures, “will result in lives saved.”
“With more than 350,000 fentanyl pills taken by SPD’s narcotics unit alone this year and shootings in Seattle up 29% in 2022, we thank our local and federal partners for their help in prioritizing this life-saving work,” Diaz continued.
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The 11 suspects were named as Jose Paleo, 29, of California; Octavio Guzman, 24, of California; Glauco Guardado Rodriguez, 25, of Seattle; Araceli Salas, 30, of California; Maria Rangel Aguilar, 44, of California; Miguel Thomas, 33, of Washington; Tad Fulton, 48, of Seattle; Ryan Holmquist, 34, of Washington; Timothy Hursh, 38, of Washington; Ryan Terry, 44, of Washington; and Abel Cruz, 32, of Washington.
Six other dependents were indicted and arrested in connection with the drug trafficking scheme in September. Despite those prior arrests, the 11 defendants arrested Wednesday allegedly continued their trafficking activities afterward, according to Brown’s office.
Those additional six defendants are Agustin Gutierrez Valencia, 32, of Washington; Daniel Vazquez Arroyo, 32, of Washington; Rosalio Reynoso Arellano, 51, of Los Angeles; Ernesto Casillas, 46, of Los Angeles; Benigno Hernandez aka Ivan Santos Arellano, 32, of Washington; and Jesus Toledo Pardo, 56, of Washington.
Defendants face multiple charges, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute. Many face a minimum of 10 years in prison because of the amount of drugs involved, according to Brown’s office.