Thirty pounds of methamphetamine were seized during a drug dealing investigation by law enforcement agencies in the Puget Sound region, including Kent. Fifteen arrests were made in the region for distributing drugs. COURTESY PHOTO, Drug Enforcement Administration

Thirty pounds of methamphetamine were seized during a drug dealing investigation by law enforcement agencies in the Puget Sound region, including Kent. Fifteen arrests were made in the region for distributing drugs. COURTESY PHOTO, Drug Enforcement Administration

Five Kent residents among 19 indicted in cartel-connected drug trafficking conspiracy

Reportedly smuggled and distributed meth, heroin

Fifteen people were arrested Tuesday throughout the Puget Sound region, including Kent and Renton, and in California following an 18-month investigation of a drug trafficking organization tied to the CJNG cartel in Mexico.

The defendants arrested made their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Five of the defendants are from Kent and three from Renton. A total of 19 people were indicted.

“This cartel is known as a violent and prolific drug trafficking group. I commend the DEA-led task force for taking a bite out of its drug distribution and money laundering networks,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran in a Tuesday U.S. Department of Justice news release. “Over the course of this investigation law enforcement seized more than 100 pounds of methamphetamine and 10 pounds of heroin, and agents and officers continued their work despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The South Sound streets are safer today with the removal of this violent criminal ring that pushed heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl into our communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis. “Without question the critical partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies made today’s effort possible and ultimately benefits the public’s safety.”

“The results of this operation are a clear example of what can be achieved through HSI’s (Homeland Security Investigations) partnership with state, local and federal law enforcement agencies,” said Eben Roberts, acting special agent in charge HSI Seattle.” I commend all of the agents, officers and analysts involved in this operation. Their dedication resulted in the removal of massive amounts of narcotics from our community, the disruption of an extremely dangerous supply chain and undoubtedly saved numerous lives.”

The indictment charges conspiracy, possession, attempted possession and distribution of methamphetamine and heroin, as well as a money laundering conspiracy. These are the 19 defendants named in the grand jury indictment:

Alan Gomez Marentes; 35, Los Angeles and Tukwila

Juan Antonio Gonzalez Carrillo; 31, Gardena, California

Luis Magana Ramirez; 32, Fife

Jose Elias Barbosa Ceballos; 35, Port Orchard

Jose Daniel Espinoza; 33, Renton

Estefhany Corea Mendoza; 27, Burien

Adrian Izazaga Martinez; 29, Kent

Jorge Mondragon; 24, Kent

Benjamin Fuentes; 28, Renton

Luis Zavalza Sanchez; 31, Seattle

Alysha Marie Jones; 27, Shelton

Armando Fierro Ponce; 26, Renton

Amanda Meyer; 35, Kent

Michael Wood; 45, Port Orchard

Luis Castillo Barragan; 32, Kent

Efrain Luna Rodriguez; 21, Maywood, California

Julian Pineda Casillas; 33, Victorville, California

Blanca Medina; 36, Los Angeles and Tukwila

Ruth Gomez Marentes; 34, Kent

In all, 15 search warrants were served in the Puget Sound region, and four were served in California. On Tuesday, agents seized: 20 pounds of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, 200 fentanyl pills, nine firearms, and more than $250,000 in cash. Previously, during the investigation, law enforcement seized more than 100 pounds of meth, various quantities of cocaine, heroin, 1,500 fentanyl pills, and six firearms.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Tacoma Resident Office in partnership with Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team, Kent Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, SeaTac Police Department, Thurston County Narcotics Team, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

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