Arrests made in DEA drug sweep

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency says it raided multiple locations on Grays Harbor Wednesday and made seven arrests to crack a methamphetamine trafficking operation that stretched from Southwest Washington to Stockton, Calif.

“The leader of the drug smuggling organization, Jose Naur Sanchez, 34, of Amanda Park allegedly sought to disguise his trafficking activity with the operation of a cedar shingle mill,” a press release from the DEA states.

In cooperation with the DEA, the Grays Harbor Drug Task Force arrested seven people Wednesday allegedly linked to the sale and manufacturing of drugs. According to the Grays Harbor County jail log, seven arrests were made as a result of a Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substance Act. Those arrested include a 19-year-old man, a 34-year-old man, a 46-year-old man, a 27-year-old man, a 39-year-old man, a 46-year-old man and another 39-year-old man.

Six of the seven suspects also have a “federal immigration hold” on them as they are under suspicion of being in the country illegally.

Two other people, Israel Magana Espinoza, 36, of Neilton; and Christian Calles, 28, of Aberdeen were arrested and indicted back in May when they were tracked to a drug lab in Stockton, Calif., according to the DEA’s press release. They were arrested by police on their return trip to Washington. When law enforcement raided the Stockton drug lab they seized more than 66 pounds of crystal meth, 88 pounds of liquid slush methamphetamine and disassembled assault rifles packaged for transport to Mexico, according to the DEA.

To date, federal agents have arrested 17 persons tied to this drug cartel, the DEA said in its press release, although no other details were immediately available. Sanchez will make his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Tacoma at 2:30 p.m. today. He is charged by indictment with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Espinoza and Calles are charged by indictment with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, according to the DEA press release. Because of the large drug quantities involved, if convicted the men face a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison and up to life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million, the DEA said.

“These defendants, who have ties to Mexican cartels, wrongly thought they could hide their drug activity in a rural area and on tribal land,” U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in the press release. “I congratulate the Quinault Nation Narcotics Enforcement Team and Grays Harbor Drug Task Force who were key partners with federal law enforcement in putting a stop to this drug distribution in their community.”

DEA agents served a warrant at a car lot on the corner of 5th and Simpson in Hoquiam, along with the unnamed cedar shake mill at Amanda Park and other locations not available as of press time

The car lot, L.G. Used Auto, at 508 Simpson is owned by Luis Garcia, according to the Grays Harbor Assessor’s Office. Federal agents, Hoquiam police and sheriff’s deputies took boxes and bags out of the building as part of their search warrant Wednesday. They were there from 6 a.m. until the afternoon.

Reached on his cell phone this morning, Garcia was asked what happened. He said he didn’t know.

Told the Drug Task Force did make some arrests yesterday, Garcia replied, “I don’t know anything about that.”

Asked why federal agents had raided his car lot, Garcia replied, “They took a bunch of paperwork. There was no reason for them to be there. It looks to me like it was a mistake.”