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Kent man arrested during statewide meth, heroin drug bust
A Kent man was one of 13 men indicted by a grand jury for investigation of distributing large amounts of methamphetamine and heroin from Mexico to Washington State.
Braulio Zuniga-Cervantes, 30, of Kent, and a dozen others were arrested Thursday as federal, state and local authorities cracked a criminal organization that spanned from Everett to Vancouver and from Aberdeen to the Tri-Cities, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office media release.
Law enforcement officials seized more than 56 pounds of heroin and more than eight pounds of highly pure meth during the 16-month investigation. The drugs had a street value of more than $1 million.
“This case exemplifies the drug trafficking we see in Western Washington from Mexico based crime groups," said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan in a media release. "These criminal groups are bringing in heroin, meth and cocaine and poisoning our communities. We must stop the flow of these drugs, while also working to reduce demand. Too many families and communities are being irrevocably damaged by addiction.”
According to records filed in the case, using court authorized wire taps, law enforcement intercepted hundreds if not thousands of drug trafficking related phone calls and text messages between September 2012 and the arrests. The investigation began in October 2011, and identified members of the criminal organization smuggling drugs from Mexico across the border into Texas and California, and then north to Western Washington.
In two notable seizures earlier this year, law enforcement found two kilograms of suspected crystal methamphetamine that was hidden in paint cans in the back of a truck stopped on Interstate 84 in Oregon. A second stop in Aberdeen resulted in the seizure of more than 53 pounds of heroin.
During a search of the vehicle, investigators located an access panel in the rear cargo area of the vehicle that enabled investigators to access the gas tank. Inside of the gas tank, investigators found and removed the suspected heroin. Each package of heroin was covered in mustard and red pepper, which is one method used by drug traffickers in an attempt to mask the smell of the heroin from drug detection canines.
“Drug trafficking organizations have one priority: financial wealth through addiction,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. “Seizures of heroin are on the rise in the Pacific Northwest. This investigation alone prevented 4 million user doses of heroin from hitting our streets, ruining lives and giving drug dealers over $1 million dollars in profits. The DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to have an unwavering focus on keeping our communities safe.”
Law enforcement officials hit 14 different locations Thursday and multiple vehicles were searched statewide. Law enforcement seized two pounds of crystal methamphetamine, heroin, two weapons, six vehicles and over $20,000 in cash.
The defendants appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
If convicted as charged for distributing drugs, the defendants face a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison because of the quantity of drugs involved.
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 Drug Enforcement Administration with significant investigative contributions from the following agencies: ICE - Homeland Security Investigations, South Snohomish County Narcotics Task Force, King County Sheriff’s Office, Grays Harbor Drug Task Force, Seattle Police Department, Port of Seattle, Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force, and Washington State Patrol.
The grand jury has indicted these defendants, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office:
Antonio Zuniga-Barajas, 29 of Kennewick
Javier Zuniga-Ochoa, 50, Kennewick
Hector M. Hernandez-Hernandez, 36, of Vancouver
Enrique Orozco-Rojas, 37, Kennewick
Pedro Barragan-Valdovinos, 39, of Pasco
Braulio Zuniga-Cervantes, 30, of Kent
Jose Manuel Pardo-Martinez, 32, of Aberdeen
Esgardo Daniel Martinez-Pizano, 18, of Aberdeen
Victor Carmona-Tapia, 28, of Everett
Omar Valencia-Barajas, 24, of Everett
Jose Trinidad Cuevas-Mendoza, 32, of Monroe
Alberto Bernal-Rodriguez, 43, of Vancouver
Omar Huerta-Garcia, 29, of Pasco