A series of drug seizures by the Bremerton Police Department last year has led Federal authorities to a massive drug trafficking organization that was responsible for bringing thousands of counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl into Skagit and Snohomish counties, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reports.
According to the DOJ, on December 5th and 6th, 2018, more than 400 federal, state and local law enforcement officers executed fifty-one federal arrest warrants along with search warrants on more than 50 buildings and 35 vehicles. The Western Washington gang was allegedly distributing oxycodone-mimicking pills made with fentanyl, heroin, and crystal methamphetamine in Pierce, Kitsap, King, Skagit and Snohomish Counties.
According to My Everett News, the law enforcement effort targeted a multi-state drug trafficking operation led by drug cartel members in Mexico. The cartel network was active in Washington State, New York, Arizona, Oregon, California, Tennessee, and Utah, reports My Everett News.
DEA Special Agent Keith Weis was quoted in My Northwest describing the network, “It’s a trans-national criminal organization that is very highly organized here in the Puget Sound area with a specific command and control element taking direction from criminal elements in Mexico. They were responsible for importing large amounts of fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine as well as laundering drug proceeds back to Mexico.”
Special Agent Weis also told My Northwest that fentanyl pills are being produced around the clock by narcotics organizations, and that it is a product that is not dependent on farming to produce. Special Agent Weis estimated that the pills probably cost about $1 to make, but can fetch $25-$35 per pill in Washington and elsewhere in the United States.
According to the DOJ, amongst those arrested was the cartel’s alleged money-launderer, Martin Dean Gregory, who lived in Washington, but ran a cryptocurrency business in Manhattan Beach, California.
The DEA Tacoma Resident Office and the Bremerton Police Department conducted this investigation, with significant assistance from the Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (TNET), Special Operations Division, Chantilly, Virginia and Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).
The multi-agency takedown operation was supported by DEA Seattle; DEA Los Angeles; DEA San Diego, DEA San Francisco and DEA Phoenix; as well as Homeland Security Investigations; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives; Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Marshals Service; West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team; Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team; Grays Harbor Drug Task Force; Snohomish County Regional Drug Task Force; Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team; Skagit County Inter-local Drug Enforcement Unit; Thurston County Narcotics Enforcement Team; Lewis County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team; Pierce County Sheriff’s Department; King County Sheriff’s Department; Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office; Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office; Aberdeen Police Department; Auburn Police Department; Bothell Police Department; Bremerton Police Department; Burlington Police Department; Fife Police Department, Seattle Police Department; Tacoma Police Department; Lakewood Police Department; Bonney Lake Police Department; Kent Police Department; Everett Police Department; Mill Creek Police Department; Quinault Nation Police Department; Hoquiam Police Department; Washington State Department of Corrections; Washington State Patrol; Mount Vernon Police Department; Oregon State Police; Washington and Oregon National Guard.
DEA’s Special Response Teams (SRT) from Seattle and San Francisco conducted tactical operations. Additional support was provided by Bremerton Special Operations Group; Lakewood Special Operations; FBI SWAT; King County SWAT; Kitsap County SWAT; Mount Vernon SWAT; North Sound Metro SWAT, Pierce County Metro SWAT; Pierce County SWAT; Seattle PD SWAT; Snohomish County SWAT; Washington State Patrol SWAT; Skagit County HRT; Valley SWAT; and the U.S. Marshal’s Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force.
Assistant United States Attorneys Marci Ellsworth and Karyn Johnson are prosecuting the cases.