Law enforcement agencies arrested another 14 people as part of an 18-month operation to break up a multi-state, international drug trafficking organization.
The U.S. Department of Justice released the latest update Thursday, including that officers took into custody Carlos Eduardo Lopez Hernandez, 22, of Kent, reportedly one of the local high-level managers of the drug trafficking group. Officers arrested a total of 43 people during the crackdown. Twenty-nine arrests were announced earlier this month.
The 80 search warrants in early December led to the seizure of more than 40 pounds of heroin, 8 pounds of fentanyl powder and 39 firearms, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers were involved in making arrests and serving search warrants targeting a multi-state drug trafficking network led by drug cartel members in Mexico. The drug trafficking organization distributing heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine was active in Washington State, New York, Arizona, Oregon, California, Tennessee and Utah.
In Western Washington the group distributed drugs in Pierce, Kitsap, King, Skagit and Snohomish counties. Over the course of the investigation law enforcement seized thousands of counterfeit oxycodone pills tainted with fentanyl, a powerful and potentially deadly opioid. Following one seizure from a vehicle, Washington State Patrol troopers were hospitalized for their accidental exposure during the investigation.
“Drug rings that peddle dangerous drugs – especially fentanyl masquerading as oxycodone pills – are a real and present danger in our communities,” U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said. “When these rings are operated by cartels in Mexico, we will bring federal resources to bear every day of the week. I commend the hard work of all our federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners who banded together to take decisive action and protect our Western Washington cities and towns.”
On Dec. 5-7, law enforcement seized more than 40 pounds of heroin, 10,000 fake oxycodone pills containing fentanyl, 8 pounds of suspected fentanyl powder, 6.5 pounds of methamphetamine, 3 pounds of cocaine, 39 firearms and more than $435,000 in cash.
“The dangerous pills containing fentanyl flowing through this pipeline operated by this Western Washington distribution network has been shut down,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis. “Those profiting from pushing illicit opioids such as fentanyl and heroin into our most vulnerable communities will be met with a significant law enforcement response.”