(WSB photo. At the podium, Western Washington US Attorney Nicholas Brown)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
One day after a wave of warrants for 14 locations brought out hundreds of federal and local law-enforcement officers and agents, their bosses briefed the media this afternoon downtown.
As reported here Tuesday, the activity was seen in at least four areas of West Seattle. However, those at today’s briefing said they couldn’t discuss specific locations not mentioned in indictment documents, and none of those refer to WS locations. Here’s our video of what they did say at the half-hour-plus briefing/Q&A in a conference room at the Federal Courthouse:
They’ve indicted eleven people who were arrested in what the federal and local authorities said was activity connected to drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs). It’s part of an ongoing investigation that they said traces back to early last year, primarily involving drug smuggling from Mexico up the I-5 corridor. Two of the locations named in indictments were RVs that were pulled over on I-5 in southern Washington. Some of the 14 locations were in California, and there are some Californians on the list of those indicted:
Jose Paleo, 29, of La Mirada, California
Octavio Guzman, 24, of Huntington Park, California
Glauco Guardado Rodriguez, 25, of Seattle
Araceli Salas, 30, of Maywood, California
Maria Rangel Aguilar, 44, of Huntington Park, California
Miguel Thomas, 33, of Tukwila
Tad Fulton, 48, of Seattle
Ryan Holmquist, 34, of Issaquah
Timothy Hursh, 38, of SeaTac
Ryan Terry, 44, of Duvall
Abel Cruz, 32, of Des Moines (WA)
What was seized around the region yesterday, according to the feds, totaled more than four pounds of fentanyl, 10 pounds of heroin, 10 pounds of meth, and 67 guns, plus “high-capacity rifle ammunition,” thousands of rounds of ammunition, two sets of body amor, and one “ballistic shield.” They showed a photo of the weaponry seized at one unidentified location in Ballard:
Prior seizures in the same investigation were listed as including 43 more guns, a million dollars in cash, more than half a ton of meth, 20 pounds of fentanyl powder, and more than 330,000 fentanyl pills. In all, DEA Seattle special agent in charge Jake Galvan said the amount of drugs seized was “staggering.” They also showed this photo of an identifying mark that they said traffickers had stamped on kilos of drug powder:
The deadliness of fentanyl was stressed time and time again during the briefing, as law-enforcement leaders not only touted what their operation had accomplished but also pleaded with the wider community to do their part by reducing demand. More treatment and counseling needs to be offered too, they said. Yes, this isn’t necessarily a crippling blow to the drug trade, but, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said, they’re saving lives by taking some of it off the street. Reducing demand and supply also would cut down on crime, he noted in response to a question, acknowledging that so much property crime is tied to users trying to get money for the next high.
And while the specific locations searched weren’t identified, regional US Attorney Nick Brown, who led the briefing, observed that so much of them were in “neighborhoods” and that it almost literally hit home for him – saying that one was about a mile from where he lives in West Seattle and “I read on the West Seattle Blog about people waking up to flashbangs,”
The agencies involved in the warrant operations were the fBI, DEA, SPD, Customs and Border Protection, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and Homeland Security Investigations, as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, described in a news release as a coalition that “identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.” The indictments announced in connection with this – 11 people whose indictments were unsealed after the warrant operations Tuesday, six people who were indicted last month – will proceed through the federal court system.
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