‘Drug-trafficking conspiracy’ behind raids this morning in South Park, Highland Park, authorities say

September 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm | In Crime, South Park, West Seattle news | 23 Comments

(Photos by Scott, taken from inside a bus, showing law enforcers outside Juan Colorado’s [at right] in South Park)
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Seattle Police have just gone public with more information on raids/arrests this morning. We received scattered tips of FBI/SPD sightings in Highland Park and South Park this morning, and the agencies said they would release information as soon as the raids were over – now, they’ve sent this:

In coordinated arrests this morning, the FBI, ATF, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Seattle Police Department took eight people into custody for a wide ranging drug trafficking conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. Members of the conspiracy maintained drug stash houses throughout the Pacific Northwest. Search warrants were served today in Vancouver, Covington, Puyallup, SeaTac, Tukwila, Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. Some of the drug traffickers conducted their deals at a Mexican restaurant in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle: the Juan Colorado.

The restaurant was closed today while law enforcement searched the premises. The defendants will make their initial appearances at 2:00 PM today in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

(Another South Park raid location; photo by Todd)

“The members of this drug trafficking conspiracy brought meth, cocaine and heroin to our communities preying on those with addictions to line their own pockets,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “This lengthy investigation led to seizures of illegal weapons as well as street drugs. This strong law enforcement collaboration is essential to keeping our communities safe.”

According to court records, the investigation of the drug trafficking organization began in November 2011. Surveillance indicates the conspirators brought the drugs up from California and sold them at various locations ranging from auto wrecking yards in Auburn to outside restaurants at the Southcenter shopping mall. Many of the drug deals were made in or around the Juan Colorado Mexican restaurant on 14th Avenue South, Seattle.

“Today’s operation is just the beginning of the end for an aggressive drug and weapons trafficking organization,” said FBI Special Agent-In-Charge Laura M. Laughlin. “The FBI will continue to work with the Seattle Police Department, ATF and other law enforcement agencies to bring an end to the drugs, guns and violence that these criminals bring to our streets.”

“Mixing criminals, guns and drugs is a foul recipe for any neighborhood,” said Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel. “This organization spread its rotten ingredients throughout Puget Sound. Working together with our local and federal partners, we were able to ‘eighty-six’ this criminal enterprise, taking it off of the menu for good.”

Members of the drug conspiracy arrested today following their indictment by the grand jury for drug distribution include: JOSE AYALA MAZORAQUIL, 39, of Tukwila, Washington; ALFONSO ROJO LOPEZ, 26, and JOSEPH EDWARD BELL, 62, both of SeaTac, Washington; PEDRO VELAZQUEZ GOMEZ, 27, and BENJAMIN CASTRO, 45, both of Seattle, Washington. Three people were arrested on criminal complaints: VICTOR AMAYA CRUZ, 40, of Auburn, Washington for distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine and two additional defendants who will appear in court at 2:00 PM today.

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

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The investigation was led by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force including officers and agents from the Seattle Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). Today’s arrests and search warrants involved a number of law enforcement agencies: the King County Sheriff’s Office, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Tacoma Police Department and the Valley SWAT Team (Renton, Kent, Tukwila and Auburn Police Departments).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Backhus and Kate Crisham.

Specific location information has not been released, but the Highland Park sighting mentioned to us by multiple readers was in the 16th/Thistle vicinity – we went to look but no obvious activity was in sight when we got there.

23 Comments

  1. Chief Pugel thinks it’s clever to word his announcement and reflect on the restaurant where drug deals were done by using food/restaurant terms such as “foul recipe”, “rotten ingredients” and “taking it off the menu”. Not clever at all, just a dodo attempt to be “slick”. We have a disfunctional police department that required DOJ intervention and now we have another Bozo chief. And Mike M. wants us to re-elect him???

    Comment by Biggmouth — 2:13 pm September 4, 2013 #

  2. Thank God! Nice work! Keep it up!!

    Comment by Bsmomma — 2:24 pm September 4, 2013 #

  3. I would like to know whether law enforcement believes the restaurant owners or staff were involved. I assume, since they are searching the restaurant, they do think there may be a connection.

    Its a restaurant I have gone to many times – so I’d just like to know what, if anything, the restaurant’s staff/owner had to do with this.

    Are any of the people already arrested affiliated w/ the restaurant?

    Comment by Lisa — 2:55 pm September 4, 2013 #

  4. I also assume the multiple puns here suggest that law enforcement thinks people affiliated w/ the restaurant played a role…

    “Mixing criminals, guns and drugs is a foul recipe for any neighborhood,” said Seattle Police Chief Jim Pugel. “This organization spread its rotten ingredients throughout Puget Sound. Working together with our local and federal partners, we were able to ‘eighty-six’ this criminal enterprise, taking it off of the menu for good.”

    Comment by Lisa — 2:57 pm September 4, 2013 #

  5. Lisa, I have to say, when I read that … I was reminded of a “Batman” TV show script. (Lives on, on one of those retro channels.) I think if they’d gone entirely for the pun quote, they might have skipped “86.” Fried this criminal enterprise, maybe? Hmm. Anyway, I will be looking for more info on this, but right now I don’t know who was affiliated with what. Will be cross-referencing some records.

    Comment by WSB — 3:48 pm September 4, 2013 #

  6. “86″ is restaurant slang for a menu item that’s sold out. “86 the Brussels sprouts.”

    Comment by peeb — 3:57 pm September 4, 2013 #

  7. 86 is a restaurant reference for removing something from a menu (been watching a lot of Kitchen Nightmares on Hulu). I don’t mind that SPD adds a touch of humor so long as they’re getting the job done.

    Comment by trickycoolj — 3:57 pm September 4, 2013 #

  8. Thanks, I’d never heard 86 in a restaurant mode before – just as general “throw it away” – learn something new every day – TR

    Comment by WSB — 4:04 pm September 4, 2013 #

  9. I always thought it was a front business after trying it one time it seemed something shady was going on there and my suspicions were correct apparently

    Comment by Nick — 4:08 pm September 4, 2013 #

  10. I wonder why the postal inspection service was involved. Were these guys involved in mail fraud or mail theft as well? Seems odd that the postal inspectors were involved. Maybe they were sending or receiving drugs through the mail?

    Comment by a — 4:56 pm September 4, 2013 #

  11. “86′d” is also bar slang for a patron that’s been banned.

    .

    I was on the bus this morning, around 11:00-ish, and saw 3 or 4 people on the sidewalk outside of Juan Colorado’s, with cameras in hand (looked for Patrick/TR). The bus Driver mentioned the earlier raid.

    .

    I had to laugh, because as I mentioned to the Driver, in the months that I’ve been passing by there about once a week, I’d been intrigued by the place, and had been thinking it might be a good place to stop sometime, and enjoy a nice Mexican meal and margarita!

    .

    Little did I know that they allegedly may have been offering more! ;-)

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 4:57 pm September 4, 2013 #

  12. Okay, now things are falling into place. We heard what we now know was a flash bang this morning. We’d thought it was a car accident because when we looked up Thistle we saw a police car blocking 16th (we live on 17th and Thistle). When we later walked up there, we didn’t notice any glass, no messed up cars, etc etc. Surmising that the raid was between Thistle and Elmgrove b/c the police car was blocking 16th headed north at Thistle. I remember thinking, “Wow, the police got to the accident FAST!”

    Comment by ghar72 — 5:56 pm September 4, 2013 #

  13. @a — postal inspectors get involved if drugs or cash or anything related to illegal activities is sent or may have been sent via U.S. Mail.

    Comment by metrognome — 6:13 pm September 4, 2013 #

  14. Heard yelling about 6:45am and than a BOOOM. The police used their loudspeaker and said “we are serving a search warrant on 16th st” or something like that, didn’t hear it clearly. Figured it was a flashbang once the cops made clear their presence.

    Comment by cc — 7:01 pm September 4, 2013 #

  15. Extremely glad this happened – South Park deserves better.

    Comment by Kyla — 7:24 pm September 4, 2013 #

  16. I used to frequent the Juan Colorado quite often with my buddy from South Park. Always had a great time there and food was really good, but boy did they crank that jukebox/stereo to ungodly volumes

    Comment by Marc M — 8:43 pm September 4, 2013 #

  17. On my way to school this morning a bit past 7, I passed a SWAT truck full of geared up officers inside, along with several cars along 16th, north of Thistle. Glad for an update. Meant to look it up, but first day of school craziness made me forget!

    Comment by LocalTeacher — 10:27 pm September 4, 2013 #

  18. Any updates on this major case?

    Comment by Dave — 8:49 am September 5, 2013 #

  19. Juan Colorado made (makes?) excellent Chile Rellenos! They were different and lighter than at other places. Really great.

    So, I still want to know what role the restaurant staff/owners allegedly played in all this.

    Are any of the people charged affiliated w/ the restaurant? Was anything found when they searched the place? When might we know these things (perhaps the indictments will answer these questions??).

    Thanks for any info WSB.

    Comment by Lisa — 9:55 am September 5, 2013 #

  20. The federal courts work in a whole different world and I don’t know if any of that will be available. I will try looking for documents in their online system later after getting through some other stories waiting to be told…

    Comment by WSB — 10:01 am September 5, 2013 #

  21. Thanks WSB!!

    Comment by Lisa — 10:57 am September 5, 2013 #

  22. I loved Juan Colorado, it is/was the most authentic mexican food found in Seattle. I hope the place sticks around without the drug issues..and innocent people do not lose their jobs.

    Comment by Bob — 11:27 am September 5, 2013 #

  23. No, it’s not funny. Seattle is the only place where people joke about serious crime. Very odd.

    Comment by G — 12:50 pm September 5, 2013 #

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