(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.