Sixteen indicted in multi-state drug distribution ring

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Seattle – A series of arrests over the last ten days has disrupted a multi-state methamphetamine and fentanyl distribution ring. The drugs were coming up from California and were being distributed in King, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Mason and Kitsap counties. The 18-month investigation revealed the drug trafficking organization was also distributing drugs to locations in the Southeastern United States including Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee.

“This drug organization trafficked two of the deadliest substances we are seeing in our community – fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “Members of the ring tried to trade drugs for firearms – ones they could transport to Mexico – contributing to terrible violence south of the border. These arrests are a significant step for community safety.”

According to records filed in the case, the investigation began in February 2020. Various people working with law enforcement provided information regarding the drug distribution activities. Aware of some of the group’s trafficking, law enforcement seized 10 pounds of methamphetamine in a traffic stop on May 16, 2020. Another 44 pounds of meth were seized in a stop on April 2, 2021, and 83 pounds of methamphetamine and 20,000 fentanyl pills were seized in a traffic stop on September 28, 2021. Additionally, on August 17, 2021, law enforcement seized 22 pounds of methamphetamine that conspirators attempted to mail to Fiji.

The alleged leaders of the drug distribution ring, Jose Maldonado-Ramirez, 33, and his fiancé, Iris Amador-Garcia, 30, of Bellflower, California, were arrested October 28, 2021. During a search of the residence where Iris Amador-Garcia was living with her brother and co-conspirator, Mario Amador-Garcia, 31, and co-conspirator, Bayron Eberto Garcia-Perez, 33, agents seized a kilogram of fentanyl or heroin, 80,000 pills of suspected fentanyl, and 2 firearms. Eight additional firearms were seized at search locations in Washington and California. Four other conspirators were taken into custody last week including:

Amado Pedro Castillo, 59, Brooklyn, New York

Jose Nolberto Bernal, 28, Kent, WA

Fernando Alcides Lopez-Mendez, 37, Los Angeles, CA

Justino Cruz-Victorio, 34, Joshua Tree, CA

Today, law enforcement made additional arrests of the distribution network:

Joseph Troy Easton, 42, Bremerton, WA

Angelique Marie Easton, 51, Bremerton, WA

Curtis Robert Griffin, 42, Belfair, WA

Dwayne Douglas George, 60, Spanaway, WA

Douglas Bryan Healer, 47, Port Orchard, WA

Jerry Wayne Kohl, 59, Tacoma, WA

One additional defendant was arrested today with 2 pounds of methamphetamine, three rifles, and a shotgun. An additional four guns were recovered at other search locations. Defendant Healer engaged in an armed stand-off with law enforcement today. This afternoon he was taken into custody at his Port Orchard residence without incident.

“The objectives of this operation were to hold those accountable for the menace of illegal narcotics trafficking, and the violence associated with it, which has plagued our communities for far too long in the state of Washington and throughout the Pacific Northwest,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge, Frank Tarentino. “The DEA and our partners are focused on the most dangerous criminals in Washington. Today’s successful operation should give members of the community a level of comfort in knowing these violent offenders, who live and walk among us, won’t be putting their lives in danger any longer.”

“These warrants represent the continued efforts of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI) to ensure the safety of our communities,” said IRS:CI acting Special Agent in Charge Adam Jobes. “We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to stop the widespread harm these illicit substances cause our friends, families, and neighbors.”

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.

These indictments are an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Seattle Field Division (SFD) Tacoma Resident Office (TRO) and Bremerton Police Department (BPD), with assistance from Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement (TNET); the Seattle, Puyallup, Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, Bonney Lake, Tacoma, and Lakewood Police Departments; the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office; Washington State Department of Corrections; Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET): Centralia and Chehalis Police Departments; Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team (VNET); and Washington State Patrol; Thurston Narcotics Team (TNT), Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, and Mason County Sheriff’s Office; United States Postal Inspections Service (USPIS), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) with support from Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas ( HIDTA).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Benjamin Diggs and C. Andrew Colasurdo.