Three Kent men among 29 arrested in drug busts

Agents execute warrants in five Western Washington counties

Three Kent men were among the 29 people arrested in Western Washington over the past two days for investigation of drug trafficking as part of a multi-state network led by drug cartel members in Mexico.

More than 400 federal, state and local law enforcement officers on Wednesday and Thursday executed 51 federal arrest warrants and search warrants on more than 50 buildings and 35 vehicles, according to a U.S. Justice Department press release.The group reportedly distributed heroin, crystal methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced counterfeit oxycodone pills in Pierce, Kitsap, King, Skagit and Snohomish counties.

The drug trafficking organization was active in Washington state, New York, Arizona, Oregon, California, Tennessee and Utah. The group allegedly used a Manhattan Beach, Calif., cryptocurrency business to launder and transfer money to Mexico.

“Overdoses involving fentanyl are growing at an alarming rate in Washington state,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes in the press release. “We are committed to bringing all needed resources to identifying and prosecuting groups that distribute this deadly poison in our communities. I commend the Drug Enforcement Administration and their federal, state and local law enforcement partners who developed the evidence that led to the arrests that occurred today (Thursday).”

The investigation began 18 months ago with drug seizures by the Bremerton Police Department. More recently, on Nov. 28, law enforcement seized more than 13 pounds of heroin from the engine compartment of a semi-truck driven by a frequent smuggler for the ring. In addition to coded cellphone conversations, many of the members of the ring also communicated via Facebook messenger. On Thursday, law enforcement seized 39 firearms and more than 4 kilos of heroin.

Those arrested appeared in U.S. District Court on Thursday in Tacoma. The Kent men arrested for investigation of drug trafficking included Carlos Eduardo Lopez Hernandez, 22; Juan Aviles Berrelleza, 23; and Jesus Rene Sarmiento Valenzuela, 33.

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