A total of 17 people with cartel connections are facing federal charges following the seizure of hundreds of thousands of fentanyl pills and more than a thousand pounds of methamphetamine, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.
On Tuesday, law enforcement officials executed search warrants at 14 locations in Washington state and California, US Attorney Nick Brown said during a news conference Wednesday.
Eleven people were arrested Tuesday on drug trafficking-related charges in connection to three different drug organizations with ties to Mexico, Brown told reporters. Last month, six people were arrested in connection to the same drug organizations.
The nearly a dozen alleged traffickers named in two newly unsealed indictments continued their activities even after the first arrests, officials said. A wiretap investigation led to more arrests this month, a news release from the US Attorney’s office says.
“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 Wednesday’s 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.”
Since September, law enforcement officials have seized 1,026 pounds of methamphetamine, 11 kilos of fentanyl powder, 330,000 fentanyl pills, 25 kilograms (about 50 pounds) of cocaine and 20 kilograms of heroin, according to the news release.
“The amount of dangerous narcotics seized during this investigation is staggering,” said Jacob D. Galvan, the acting special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration field division that includes Washington, Idaho and Oregon. “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.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid intended to help people such as cancer patients manage severe pain. It’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s used illicitly because of its heroin-like effect, and even small doses can be deadly.
Law enforcement officials have also seized 110 firearms and more than $1 million in cash.
According to the news release, the defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute. Some defendants are also charged with money laundering.
The investigation was led by the FBI field offices in Seattle and Los Angeles, with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Seattle Police Department, according to the release.