A 21-year-old Kent woman is among seven people indicted in connection with a coast-t0-coast drug trafficking conspiracy with ties to Pennsylvania, Arizona and Seattle.
Over the past 36 hours, law enforcement took all of the defendants into custody, with four arrested in Seattle and three in Arizona, according to a March 3 U.S. Department of Justice news release. The seven were indicted in the Western District of Washington.
In addition, another Kent woman and a Kent man were arrested in Seattle for indictments in Pittsburgh. Those arrested in Seattle are being detained at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, pending future hearings.
“This investigation shows how drug trafficking rings interact across the country – drugs coming into Arizona are then transferred to distributors as geographically distinct as Seattle and Pittsburgh,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “Prosecutors and law enforcement here have worked cooperatively to arrest and prosecute the key players responsible for hundreds of thousands of potentially deadly doses.”
Robert Hammer, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), oversees operations in the Pacific Northwest.
“Cartel activity of this nature is of particular concern to HSI, and we continue to prioritize investigations into individuals and organizations that illicitly introduce deadly fentanyl and firearms into our communities,” Hammer said. “This national operation has brought 90 individuals to justice, taken a large amount of guns off of our streets, and serves as a message to other fentanyl trafficking organizations that we will not stop; for the safety and security of the communities that we serve, we can’t stop as innocent lives are at risk.”
According to records filed in the case, a key member of the drug conspiracy was arrested in Seattle on Jan. 11, 2023. Bryce Hill is charged in the Western District of Pennsylvania with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine.
The Pittsburgh investigation began in 2018 and became a wiretap investigation in the spring of 2022. The investigation identified Bryce aka “Benji” Hill as a key distributor of drugs in the Seattle area. Hill traveled, or had his associates travel, between Arizona and Seattle, bringing in drugs and taking drug proceeds back to conspirators in Phoenix.
When investigators served search warrants on residences in Seattle associated with Hill, they seized five firearms – including assault style weapons and those with extended magazines. One firearm had been modified to fire fully automatic. Hill is prohibited from possessing firearms due to previous convictions.
At Hill’s apartment in Seattle, where he was arrested, law enforcement seized about 27 kilos of fentanyl pills. The drugs were still in the suitcases they had traveled in from Arizona. Law enforcement also seized more than $387,000 in cash.
In all, some 60 people have been charged in the Western District of Pennsylvania. Over the past 10 months, investigators in the Pennsylvania-based case have seized more than 673 pounds of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills, over 400 pounds of methamphetamine, and more than 16 pounds each of fentanyl powder and cocaine, over $600,000 in cash, nine vehicles and 47 firearms.
On March 2 alone, in connection with the arrests in the Seattle area, law enforcement seized:
• Seven additional firearms for a total of 21 associated with this case
• Approximately $500,000 cash
• A half kilo of cocaine
• Smaller amounts of crack cocaine and fentanyl pills
The seven people indicted in Seattle allegedly conspired with Hill in the drug distribution scheme. Those indicted include:
• Cierra J. Ward, 21, of Kent
• David Theodore Carr, 43, of Phoenix, Arizona
• Jaren Christopher Tran, 43, of Seattle
• Shaunyae Allen, 37, of Oak Harbor
• Jose Cortes 34, of Marysville
• Aliana Lyla Khan, 34 of Scottsdale, Arizona
• Kayla Vigil, 28, of Tempe, Arizona
Additionally, two defendants from Western Washington were arrested on an indictment from the Western District of Pennsylvania:
• Alicia Parks, 25, of Kent
• Mohamed Kariye, 34, of Kent
“This organization sold their illicit narcotics throughout the U.S., from the Southwest border to the Pacific Northwest and all the way to the East Coast,” said Jacob D. Galvan, acting special agent in charge of the DEA Seattle Field Division. “Our federal partnerships once again have proven invaluable in defeating these organizations and holding their members accountable. According to DEA labs, 6 out of 10 fake pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. With the seizure in one Seattle apartment, our partnerships saved 162,000 lives.”
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This investigation was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces operation. In the Western District of Washington, the investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigation with assistance from the FBI, DEA, and ATF. In Pennsylvania the investigation is being led by HSI and the FBI.