Upper-level North Olympic Peninsula drug dealers obtained heroin and methamphetamine from a drug-trafficking organization that was splintered this week in several Western Washington arrests.
The apprehensions conducted Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle and the Drug Enforcement Administration included the participation of a Peninsula drug task force, the task force commander said Thursday.
“This is one of the larger drug trafficking organizations that had their tentacles into Clallam County,” said Brian King, commander of the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team. King is the chief criminal deputy for the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.
“This is all cartel-related operations with tentacles reaching back into Mexico,” he added.
King said the network was centered around Skagit County south to Auburn.
“We know that some of our higher-tier operations that are dealing with large quantities of methamphetamine and heroin on the Peninsula have direct ties to this drug trafficking organization,” he said.
“We know that this organization was responsible for the delivery of many pounds of methamphetamine and heroin and, likely, fentanyl to the Peninsula.
“This is a major disruption in the supply.”
The operation was the third major series of drug-ring arrests in three months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday in a press release.
Among those apprehended was Lionel Gonzalez-Torres, 24, of Burlington.
OPNET agents served a federal search warrant earlier Tuesday on Gonzalez-Torres’ apartment based in part on a 2019 OPNET investigation, according to the federal criminal complaint against him and Jesus Daniel Lerma-Jaras, 40, of Everett.
At Gonzalez-Torres’ apartment, King said detectives discovered “several pounds” of suspected heroin, a “large quantity” of suspected counterfeit prescription pills believed to contain fentanyl, and $1,500.
Gonzalez-Torres and Lerma-Jaras allegedly conspired to distribute the drugs beginning at an unknown date but within the last five years until Feb. 13, 2020, within King, Snohomish and Skagit counties “and elsewhere,” according to the Western Federal District Court complaint.
Gonzalez-Torres was charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, distribution of heroin in Snohomish County, two counts of distribution of heroin and methamphetamine in Snohomish County, possession of heroin and methamphetamine with intent to distribute in Snohomish and Skagit counties, distribution of heroin and methamphetamine in King County, and distribution of heroin in King County.
Lerma-Jaras was charged with distribution of heroin, distribution of methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute heroin, and possession of a stolen firearm, all in Snohomish County.
They and 18 other individuals ages 21-52 from Bellevue, Everett, Lynnwood, Kent, Edmonds, SeaTac and Marysville were named in the indictments or taken into custody on criminal complaints alleging they conspired to distribute heroin and methamphetamine. Six are from Marysville.
Much of the complaint against Gonzalez-Torres is based on OPNET’s 2019 investigation.
OPNET used a confidential source (CS) from Clallam County who was buying drugs from Gonzalez-Torres for sale on the North Olympic Peninsula, King said.
The complaint gave the following account:
The CS had purchased 6 to 20 ounces of heroin and methamphetamine over six months from a person named Lionel before going undercover and gave detectives Lionel’s phone number, matching Gonzalez-Torres’ face with a photo of the user.
The CS would contact Lionel, place the drug order, and take the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds, meeting Gonzalez-Torres in Edmonds.
The CS wore a body wire in drug buys during which a half-pound of heroin and 3 ounces of methamphetamine were purchased.
During one transaction in Edmonds, on May 28, 2019, Gonzalez-Torres drove a Chevy Malibu.
Afterward, “investigators on the ground and in the air maintained visual contact with the Malibu.”
During another buy, on June 12, 2019, Gonzalez-Torres discussed the drug’s quality with the CS during the exchange.
“It’s a little stronger than before,” he tells the informant.
A week later, on June 20, 2019, the CS ordered a pound of heroin and an ounce of methamphetamine from Gonzalez-Torres, who was arrested in Everett on his way to meet with the CS.
In his pants pocket, wrapped in dryer sheets, was a package with 1 pound of heroin and 1.4 ounces of methamphetamine.
He said he was taking drugs to someone in Seattle and that they were worth about $10,000, of which he “would receive a few hundred bucks.”
During a search of his apartment that same day, detectives found 3 pounds of methamphetamine in a backpack, 1.4 ounces of cocaine on a windowsill and 0.5 ounces of heroin under the mattress.
The bathroom was “a makeshift packaging station” with “residue everywhere” and baggies of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, and $7,540 in cash.
“Gonzalez-Torres explained that he had not been working, needed to pay rent and this was an easy way to make money, the complaint said.
Authorities said that Gonzalez also participated in two other controlled buys with Lerma-Jaras involving a Seattle Police Department CS.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].