Guns and cash seized by federal law enforcement officers in 2022 as part of a drug trafficking ring bust in Washington and California that resulted in 17 indictments on drug charges. COURTESY PHOTO, FBI

Guns and cash seized by federal law enforcement officers in 2022 as part of a drug trafficking ring bust in Washington and California that resulted in 17 indictments on drug charges. COURTESY PHOTO, FBI

Man busted for drugs in Kent receives eight-year prison sentence

Part of drug trafficking ring that brought hundreds of pounds of narcotics to Western Washington

A member of a drug trafficking ring arrested in 2022 at a Kent hotel received a prison sentence of eight years, six months for his role in bringing hundreds of pounds of narcotics to Western Washington.

Ernesto Casillas, 48, of Los Angeles, has been in custody since his arrest on Sept. 9, 2022 at a Kent hotel. He was arrested with more than 3 kilograms of heroin, more than 5 kilograms of fentanyl pills and more than 6 kilograms of cocaine, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. There were two firearms in the room as well as more than $145,000 in cash.

U.S. District Court Judge Lauren King sentenced Casillas on Wednesday, July 10 in Seattle.

“Despite two sentences that were drug related you not only continued distributing drugs, but you did it on a massive scale,” King said. “You did all of this for money without regard for the consequences.”

Casillas pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and one count of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.

He is the first of six defendants tied to a significant drug trafficking ring that used recreational vehicles to transport massive quantities of methamphetamine, fentanyl pills, cocaine and heroin, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Mr. Casillas was a member of one of three inter-related drug trafficking rings taken off the street in the fall of 2022,” said U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. “Even when one of the RV’s connected to the group was pulled off the highway and seized by law enforcement, the traffickers didn’t stop. Mr. Casillas not only traveled for the group with drugs, he mailed the drugs to other communities across the country.”

According to records filed in the case, Casillas was seen shipping packages of drug via FedEx to various addresses in Western Washington and elsewhere. In July and August 2022, he shipped 5 kilograms of cocaine to a Kent address, more than 2 kilograms of cocaine to a Columbus, Ohio, and approximately 20 pounds of methamphetamine to a Federal Way address.

Casillas was one of six people arrested Sept. 9, 2022 on drug charges, including three others of Kent, one of SeaTac and one of Los Angeles.

In asking for a 102-month prison sentence, prosecutors wrote to the court:

“There is no question that this is a serious criminal offense given the staggering amount of drugs being transported by this DTO (drug trafficking organization). Between two seizures over the course of four days, agents were able to seize approximately 749 pounds of methamphetamine, 25 kilograms of fentanyl laced pills, over 17 kilograms of cocaine, over 7 kilograms of heroin and 5 kilograms of fentanyl powder. Mr. Casillas and his co-conspirators were in charge of pumping massive amounts of dangerous and deadly substances into the community.”

Prosecutors noted the harm fentanyl and methamphetamine are doing in the community. During 2024, in King County alone, there have already been 556 overdose deaths as of July 3, with 420 of those deaths involving fentanyl and 310 of them involving methamphetamine.

The investigation was led by the FBI field offices in Seattle and Los Angeles, with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Seattle Police Department, Customs and Border Protection, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Homeland Security Investigations, both the LA and Seattle offices.

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