Two men were sentenced this week to prison for drug and gun crimes as part of a five-month operation by law enforcement agencies focused on gun violence earlier this year on Kent’s East Hill.
Six other men are awaiting sentencing for gun and drug crimes committed in Kent as part of “Operation East Watch” by law enforcement agencies.
“In the first half of 2018, there were 29 shots fired incidents in Kent’s East Hill neighborhood prompting law enforcement to launch a focused operation to address the problem,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes in a U.S. Department of Justice news release on Friday. “Job one was to remove those who were committing crimes most likely to result in additional violence.
“Led by ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and local law enforcement partners, officers developed cases against eight defendants, most of whom were illegally armed as they dealt drugs in the area. As a result of the operation, 11 guns were seized from individuals whose criminal history made them ineligible to possess firearms.”
Anthony Ripley, 46, of Tacoma, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 10 years in prison for drug and gun possession crimes. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones noted Ripley had spent much of his adult life in prison, and imposed five years of supervised release to follow the prison sentence.
Ripley was involved in methamphetamine distribution while armed with two different firearms. When law enforcement searched his Tacoma home in June, they recovered two handguns and discovered an illegal marijuana growing operation, according to the news release. He has multiple prior felonies including a 1997 manslaughter conviction in Pierce County in connection with a gang shooting. He has prior state (1994) and federal (2006) convictions for distributing cocaine.
“It is ATF’s core commitment to protect the public from violent career offenders like Mr. Ripley, whose continued armed drug trafficking placed the community at risk and showed contempt for law and order,” said ATF Seattle special agent in charge Darek Pleasants. “Sentences like this one aim to remove violent offenders from our communities and serve to deter others.”
Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla appreciated the cooperation of multiple agencies.
“This is another great example of what can be accomplished when federal agencies like the ATF and local law enforcement agencies work together to address violent criminals in our communities,” Padilla said. “My thanks to the task force agents and officers who conducted the investigation that led to this great outcome.”
Of the eight defendants arrested in “Operation East Watch,” seven have pleaded guilty and one has a change of plea hearing scheduled next week.
Eddie Tarik Musa Bell, Jr was sentenced Nov. 26 to four years in prison for distribution of methamphetamine and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The defendants awaiting sentencing are:
• Allen Betts III, 40, of Kent, pleaded guilty of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and unlawful possession of a firearm.
• Anthony Colbert, 48, of Seattle, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
• Neal Stringer, 46, of Kent and Des Moines, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
• Devon Parramore, 50 of Kent, pleaded guilty to distribution of methamphetamine.
• Mario Parra-Cetina, 28, of Kent, pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, and conspiracy to distribute heroin.
Kenyon Taylor, 39, of Federal Way, is scheduled for a change of plea hearing next week. He is currently charged with three counts of distribution of methamphetamine.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that has been historically successful in bringing together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority, according to the news release.
In October 2017, as part of a series of actions to address this crime trend, DOJ leadership announced the reinvigoration of PSN and directed all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to develop a district crime reduction strategy that incorporates the lessons learned since PSN launched in 2001.
The operation was led by ATF, Puget Sound Regional Crime Gun Task Force and the Kent Police Department. The task force contains agents and officers from King County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Department of Corrections, Washington State Patrol, Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Marshals Service, Seattle Police Department and the Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Amy Jaquette and Special Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Manca. Manca is a senior deputy King County prosecutor specially designated to prosecute gun crimes in federal court.