DEA takes down drug ring with Tri-City connections

Tri-City HeraldMarch 14, 2013 

— A large drug trafficking organization that smuggled heroin and methamphetamine from Mexico to Washington was dismantled Thursday with more than a dozen arrests, including five men from the Tri-Cities, according to the Department of Justice.

Thomas Bates of the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thursday that 14 different places and multiple vehicles were searched across the state, resulting in the seizure of two pounds of crystal methamphetamine and heroin, two weapons, six vehicles and more than $20,000 in cash.

The drug ring reportedly spanned from Everett to Vancouver and from the coast of Aberdeen to the Tri-Cities. The DEA-led investigation, which began in October 2011, turned up 56 pounds of heroin, eight pounds of “highly pure” methamphetamine and resulted in 14 grand jury indictments, Bates said.

Officials said that the 14 men to be indicted so far include three Kennewick men, Antonio Zuniga-Barajas, 29, Javier Zuniga-Ochoa, 50, Enrique Orozco-Rojas, 37, as well as two Pasco men, Pedro Barragan-Valdovinos, 39, and Omar Huerta-Garcia, 29. They face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.

All those who were indicted appeared in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Thursday. Matthew G. Barnes, Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in charge, said in a release that the investigation prevented four million “user doses” of heroin and more than $1 million in profits from hitting the streets. Bates said the organization was smuggling the drugs from Mexico across the border into Texas and California, and then to Washington.

In two seizures earlier this year, law enforcement found two kilograms of methamphetamine hidden in paint cans in a truck stopped on Interstate 84 in Oregon and 53 pounds of heroin covered with mustard and red pepper in a gas tank during a traffic stop in Aberdeen.

Homeland Security Investigations, Snohomish County Narcotics Task Force, King County Sheriff’s Office, Gray’s Harbor Drug Task Force, Seattle Police Department, Port of Seattle, Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force and Washington State Patrol assisted in the investigation. The DOJ’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement task force provided supplemental federal funding the federal and state agencies involved.

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