TACOMA — A man who law enforcement officials have called the primary illicit drug supplier on the North Olympic Peninsula pleaded guilty in federal court this week and faces up to 20 years in prison.
Nicolas “Nico” Orozco-Cruz, who was the head of a drug trafficking organization pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and in the plea agreement attorneys recommend he face 46 to 71 months in prison.
Sentencing is set for Aug. 2.
Orozco-Cruz, Elizabeth Ann McKean and Jessica Elen Christman were all arrested last year after a year-long Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team and Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into Orozco-Cruz’s drug trafficking organization, which officials believed was the primary supplier of Mexican-produced heroin and methamphetamine on the Olympic Peninsula.
Court papers say he was in the United States illegally.
Orozco-Cruz was indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, six counts of distribution of a controlled substance and alien in possession of a firearm.
Federal prosecutors have agreed to drop six distribution charges as part of the plea agreement.
“I could not be more proud, and grateful to, the men and women of the OPNET and the DEA for their tireless efforts in bringing to justice a dealer who had eluded law enforcement for many years,” said Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
“The investigation exemplifies the partnerships OPNET fosters everyday with our federal allies in bringing to justice the most destructive narcotics dealers whose organizations adversely affect the quality of life in Clallam County.”
Orozco-Cruz admits that he began supplying multiple people in the Port Angeles and Sequim area with meth and heroin by at least March 2017, court papers say. He enlisted Christman to help.
In April and May 2018 law enforcement used a confidential source to conduct four controlled buys of heroin from Cruz and Christman, according to court documents.
On May 23, 2018, agents searched Orozco-Cruz’s home, which he shared with McKean, and found more than $16,000 cash and a rifle, they said.
When agents found him at the Welcome Inn RV Park in Port Angeles, Orozco-Cruz had 12 grams of meth, $1,700 and three cellphones in his vehicle. McKean and Christman were subsequently arrested in other parts of Clallam County.
Orozco-Cruz, McKean and Christman were indicted on the charges June 6 and since then McKean and Christman have pleaded guilty and entered into the federal Drug Reentry Alternative Model program. Orozco-Cruz remains held at Federal Detention Center SeaTac.
During the investigation, members of the drug trafficking organization have been “hypersensitive” to police presence, but investigators gained information from several people who admitted to purchasing drugs from them, court records say.
Records say McKean focused on distributing drugs to the western-most parts of the North Olympic Peninsula in areas such as Neah Bay, Sekiu and Forks while Orozco-Cruz focused on such areas as Port Angeles and Sequim.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at email@example.com.