Sentencing set for Friday for drug distributor

TACOMA — A Mexican citizen who pleaded guilty to distributing large amounts of drugs on the North Olympic Peninsula with his girlfriend will be sentenced in federal court Friday.

Nicolas “Nico” Orozco Cruz, 35, who court papers describe as the primary drug supplier and distributor on the Olympic Peninsula, pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, about a year after agents arrested him, his girlfriend and another woman.

“Cruz acknowledged distributing heroin on the Olympic Peninsula; he was arrested in possession of a distribution quantity of methamphetamine,” the government’s sentencing memorandum said. “Drug distribution in any community is a serious offense with devastating consequences, but in a remote, rural community with relatively high rates of unemployment and poverty, those consequences are magnified.”

The U.S. is recommending Cruz serve 54 months in prison prior to his “near-certain” deportation.

Cruz’s attorney is asking that Cruz only be sentenced to 46 months because of his lack of prior criminal history and because his co-defendants, Elizabeth Ann McKean and Jessica Elen Christman, were allowed to enter into the Drug Reentry Alternative Model (DREAM) program to avoid prison.

Cruz is not eligible for the DREAM program because of his immigration status.

Christman is currently in federal custody awaiting inpatient treatment.

Cruz was brought to the United States by his uncle at age 14 and picked salal near Forks for several years. He returned to Mexico in 2004 and returned to the United States in about 2011, court documents say.

In 2016, he fell off a roof while working and suffered a back injury.

“This injury caused him to start using heroin to treat the pain and when he could not perform the hard manual labor he knew, he began dealing heroin,” court papers say.

Cruz’s attorney disputes the prosecution’s assertion that Cruz was the leader of the organization.

“McKean controlled her own drug distribution business,” Cruz’s attorney wrote.

“I would like to say that I am responsible for the mistake I made and I regret it,” Cruz said in a statement translated from Spanish. “I have promised myself that in the future I will never do it again.”

Cruz said that after being imprisoned for more than a year that he has learned his lesson and that he asks for a “fair” sentence so he can return to his family.

“Honorable judge, please allow me to apologize to the government of the United States, to you, and the community,” Cruz wrote.

Cruz, McKean and Christman were all arrested last year after a year-long Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team and Drug Enforcement Administration investigation into Cruz’s drug trafficking organization, which officials believed was the primary supplier of Mexican-produced heroin and methamphetamine on the Olympic Peninsula.

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 Cruz focused on such areas as Port Angeles and Sequim.

“As OPNET and the DEA continued their investigation into Cruz, they learned … that Cruz and Elizabeth McKean … were in a romantic and drug-distribution relationship,” according to court papers.

Court records say the investigation into Cruz’s organization started after police learned that Cruz was supplying drugs to Daniel Percival, who is now serving an 80-month term for federal drug and firearms offenses.

During the investigation, members of the drug trafficking organization had been “hypersensitive” to police presence, but investigators gained information from several people who admitted to purchasing drugs from them, court records say.

Investigators conducted controlled buys using an undercover officer and informants and eventually executed search and arrest warrants May 23, 2018.

At a residence shared by McKean and Cruz with their 4-year-old daughter and Cruz’s adult son, investigators found a rifle, a digital scale and more than $16,000 cash.

Cruz was arrested at the Welcome Inn RV Park in Port Angeles, where investigators found him with a distribution quantity of methamphetamine and $1,712 cash.


Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at

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