Three Pasco men are charged in federal court after an eight-month undercover operation led to the discovery of drugs, guns and nearly $70,000 cash in a downtown home.
Gustavo Negrete-Villalobos, Joel Macias and Francisco Elvira Jr. each face one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
One deal was for 8 pounds of meth worth almost $38,000, documents said.
Negrete-Villalobos, 23, allegedly sold significant quantities of meth and marijuana to undercover detectives at least twice this year.
It was after the second exchange Sept. 27 that authorities raided Elvira’s home in the 500 block of West Bonneville Street.
Negrete-Villalobos was seen going into the alleged drug house and coming out with a box that later was handed over to undercover detectives in the transaction, according to court documents. Macias was driving him around that day.
During a Monday bail hearing in U.S. District Court in Richland, Negrete-Villalobos’ defense attorney asked for another week to prepare an argument for his release. He is being held in the Benton County jail in Kennewick under an inmate contract.
Macias, 27, was released without bail after Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin D. Seal withdrew his motion to hold him.
And Elvira, 32, was released Monday afternoon after posting a $2,000 bond.
Seal argued to keep Elvira locked up in order to ensure his appearance in court, but Magistrate Judge Mary K. Dimke denied the request.
If convicted, the felony drug charge calls for a minimum sentence of 10 years with the possibility of life imprisonment. It also could carry a $10 million fine.
The multi-agency investigation was led by Drug Enforcement Administration officers with the Tri-Cities Task Force.
Court documents in Superior Court and U.S. District Court show that an undercover detective was introduced to Negrete-Villalobos in January because he was identified as a drug trafficker in the Tri-City region.
In February, the detective negotiated to buy 3 ounces of crystal meth and 1 pound of marijuana for $2,700.
Then in March, two detectives met in a parking lot with Negrete-Villalobos and a fourth unidentified suspect who said he had a new supply source for crystal meth in California, and “that he was ‘working everything out’ to obtain bulk quantities at a later date,” documents said.
They left to get the crystal meth and delivered it later in the parking lot of another Pasco store.
The unidentified man said “he used to have a successful, high-level operation in Yakima, but it became too ‘hot,’ so he had to stop,” documents said. He claimed that he was looking into being successful in the Tri-Cities and was improving operations.
They again left to get the marijuana and delivered it to the detectives, court documents said.
The 3 ounces of crystal meth contained more than 50 grams of actual meth, documents said.
After the undercover detective contacted Negrete-Villalobos on Sept. 27 and said he was ready to buy 8 pounds of meth, surveillance units saw a car pick up the suspect at a Pasco motel where he was living temporarily.
Negrete-Villalobos later gave the detective a box with a plastic bag containing eight vacuum-sealed bags filled with crystal meth.
Negrete-Villalobos and Macias were arrested. And Elvira and a woman were detained near his Bonneville Street home.
Detectives seized $50,000 to $70,000 cash, several ounces of crystal meth, up to a pound of cocaine, a scale and three guns from the house, documents said.
One pistol was found in Elvira’s master bedroom closet, along with several bags of drugs and “a large volume of used drug packaging,” documents said.
Elvira allegedly admitted that $3,000 of the cash was from selling cocaine. He denied supplying the 8 pounds of crystal meth to Negrete-Villalobos.
Detectives claim Negrete-Villalobos acknowledged delivering the drugs, and said he asked Macias to provide protection during the Sept. 27 transaction, court documents said. He also alleged that Elvira had agreed to give him the crystal meth.
Macias told investigators that Negrete-Villalobos offered to pay him $2,500 if he drove for “something big,” documents said.
He said he didn’t see what was in the box Negrete-Villalobos carried out of a Pasco house, but he assumed it was drugs since the offer was for so much money.