More than 300,000 fentanyl pills seized in federal bust linked to 3 major drug cartels


Seventeen people with cartel connections face federal charges after hundreds of thousands of fentanyl pills and more than a thousand pounds of methamphetamine were seized, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington announced.

On Tuesday, law enforcement officials executed search warrants at 14 locations in Washington state and California, U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said at a news conference Wednesday.

Eleven people were arrested Tuesday on drug-trafficking charges linked to three drug organizations with ties to Mexico, Brown told reporters. Last month, six people were arrested in connection with the same drug organizations.

Nearly a dozen suspected traffickers named in the two newly unsealed indictments continued their activities even after the first arrests, officials said. A wiretapping investigation has led to more arrests this month, the U.S. Attorney’s office says.

“These individuals were bringing large quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl and cocaine from Mexico across the border and up I-5 into the Pacific Northwest,” Brown said in a statement Wednesday. “Even when the drug-laden RV pulled off the highway and was intercepted by law enforcement, they didn’t flinch. The hearing revealed that a number of organizations continued to hire drivers and vehicles to transport their drugs across our District.”

Since September, 1,026 kilos of methamphetamine, 11 kilos of fentanyl powder, 330,000 fentanyl pills, 25 kilos (about 50 kilos) of cocaine, and 20 kilos of heroin have been seized.

“The number of dangerous narcotics seized in this investigation is staggering,” said Jacob D. Galvan, acting special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s regional division that covers Washington, Idaho and Oregon. “Looking at the seized fentanyl, with four out of 10 fake pills containing a lethal dose, it was enough to kill 132,000 people.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to help manage cancer patients such as cancer. It is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is used illegally for its heroin-like effect, and even small doses can be fatal.

Law enforcement officials also seized 110 firearms and more than $1 million in cash.

According to the news release, the defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Some of the defendants are also accused of money laundering.

The investigation was led by the FBI’s Seattle and Los Angeles field offices, with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Seattle Police Department, the statement said.