In an investigation that began in 2011 and resulted in the seizure of more than 53 pounds of heroin in Aberdeen earlier this year, a major drug trafficking group that distributed large amounts of methamphetamine and heroin from Mexico all over Washington state has been broken up, federal officials said.
A dozen men, including two from Aberdeen, were indicted by a federal grand jury and appeared in federal court in Seattle Thursday. The two from Aberdeen are Jose Manuel Pardo-Martinez, 32, and Esgardo Daniel Martinez-Pizano, 18.
The Grays Harbor Drug Task Force was one of several enforcement agencies working on the investigation.
The Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force provided federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration with investigative contributions from the following agencies: ICE - Homeland Security Investigations, South Snohomish County Narcotics Task Force, King County Sheriff’s Office, Grays Harbor Drug Task Force, Seattle Police Department, Port of Seattle, Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force, and the Washington State Patrol.
Officials said the organization spanned a large area of the state with operations ranging from Everett to Vancouver, Wash., and from Aberdeen to the Tri-Cities. Over the course of the investigation law enforcement has seized more than 56 pounds of heroin and more than eight pounds of highly pure methamphetamine.
According to records filed in the case, using court authorized wire taps, law enforcement intercepted hundreds if not thousands of drug trafficking related phone calls and text messages between September 2012 and now.
The investigation began in October 2011, and identified members of the criminal organization smuggling drugs from Mexico across the border into Texas and California, and then north to Western Washington, officials said.
In two seizures earlier this year, law enforcement found two kilograms of suspected crystal methamphetamine that was hidden in paint cans in the back of a truck stopped on Interstate 84 in Oregon, and a second stop — in Aberdeen — resulted in the seizure of more than 53 pounds of heroin. During a search of the vehicle, investigators located an access panel in the rear cargo area of the vehicle that enabled investigators to access the gas tank. Inside of the gas tank, investigators located and removed the suspected heroin. Each package of heroin was covered in mustard and red pepper, which is one method used by drug traffickers in an attempt to mask the smell of the heroin from drug detection canines, officials said.
“Drug trafficking organizations have one priority: financial wealth through addiction,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. “Seizures of heroin are on the rise in the Pacific Northwest. This investigation alone prevented 4 million user doses of heroin from hitting our streets, ruining lives and giving drug dealers over $1 million dollars in profits. The DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to have an unwavering focus on keeping our communities safe.”
The grand jury has indicted the following defendants:
Antonio Zuniga-Barajas, 29 of Kennewick; Javier Zuniga-Ochoa, 50, Kennewick; Hector M. Hernandez-Hernandez, 36, of Vancouver; Enrique Orozco-Rojas, 37, Kennewick; Pedro Barragan-Valdovinos, 39, of Pasco; Braulio Zuniga-Cervantes, 30, of Kent; Victor Carmona-Tapia, 28, of Everett; Omar Valencia-Barajas, 24, of Everett; Jose Trinidad Cuevas-Mendoza, 32, of Monroe; Alberto Bernal-Rodriguez, 43, of Vancouver; and Omar Huerta-Garcia, 29, of Pasco.
Thursday, 14 different locations and multiple vehicles were searched statewide. One additional person was arrested by criminal complaint. Law enforcement seized two pounds of crystal methamphetamine, heroin, two weapons, six vehicles and over $20,000 in cash.
If convicted the defendants face a mandatory minimum ten years in prison because of the quantity of drugs involved.