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Eight, including Tukwila man, arrested in drug-trafficking conspiracy
Eight people were taken into custody Wednesday, including a Tukwila man, in a wide-ranging, drug-trafficking conspiracy investigated by the FBI, ATF, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Seattle Police Department, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.
Members of the conspiracy maintained drug stash houses throughout the Pacific Northwest, according to a federal news release.
According to court records, the investigation of the drug trafficking organization began in November 2011, according to the news release. Surveillance indicates the conspirators brought the drugs up from California and sold them at various locations, ranging from auto-wrecking yards in Auburn to outside restaurants at the Southcenter shopping mall. Many of the drug deals were made in or around the Juan Colorado Mexican restaurant on 14th Avenue South, Seattle, according to the news release.
Search warrants were served in Vancouver, Covington, Puyallup, SeaTac, Tukwila, Seattle and Tacoma. Some of the drug traffickers conducted their deals at a Mexican restaurant in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle, the Juan Colorado. The restaurant was closed today while law enforcement searched the premises.
The defendants will make their initial appearances at 2 p.m. Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
“The members of this drug-trafficking conspiracy brought meth, cocaine and heroin to our communities preying on those with addictions to line their own pockets,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “This lengthy investigation led to seizures of illegal weapons as well as street drugs. This strong law enforcement collaboration is essential to keeping our communities safe.”
“Today’s operation is just the beginning of the end for an aggressive drug and weapons trafficking organization,” said FBI Special Agent-In-Charge Laura M. Laughlin. “The FBI will continue to work with the Seattle Police Department, ATF and other law enforcement agencies to bring an end to the drugs, guns and violence that these criminals bring to our streets.”
Those arrested arrested following their indictment by the grand jury for drug distribution include Jose Ayala Mazoraquil, 39 of Tukwila; Alfonso Rojo Lopez, 26, and Joseph Edward Bell, 62, both of SeaTac; Pedro Velazquez Gomez, 27, and Benjamin Castro, 45, both of Seattle.
Three people were arrested on criminal complaints, Victor Amaya Cruz, 40, of Auburn for distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine and two additional defendants who will appear in court at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The charges contained in the indictment and complaints are only allegations, according to the press release. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
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 FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force including officers and agents from the Seattle Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).
Wednesday's arrests and search warrants involved a number of law enforcement agencies, the King County Sherriff’s Office, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Tacoma Police Department and the Valley SWAT Team (Renton, Kent, Tukwila and Auburn Police departments).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Backhus and Kate Crisham.