18 indicted on charges tied to violent drug cartel

More than a dozen alleged members of a drug-smuggling ring were indicted in Seattle on Thursday, accused of conspiring to import and distribute controlled substances and engage in money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

By Sara Jean Green
Seattle Times staff reporter

Suspected members of a violent drug-smuggling ring that distributed crystal meth and heroin from Mexico across a number of states were indicted Thursday in Seattle, accused of conspiring to import and distribute controlled substances and engage in money-laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Four brothers were among the 18 indicted; two of them are in custody, while two others are believed to be in Mexico.

The ring's alleged leader, Orlando Olais Rocha, 31, and his brother, Everardo Olais Rocha, 27, were also charged with two counts each of possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking after federal agents seized several guns, including an AK-47 rifle, from apartments in Lynnwood and Puyallup, according to the indictment.

If convicted, all of the accused — 15 of whom were arrested in June, 13 of them in Snohomish and Pierce counties — face mandatory prison terms of at least 10 years on the drug charges, and they could be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle.

The Olais Rocha brothers, if convicted, also face mandatory five-year sentences on the firearms charges, which would run consecutively to any sentence imposed for the drug charges.

Orlando and Everardo Olais Rocha, along with 13 others, will be arraigned next week. They are:

Heriberto Perez Ruiz, 29, and Eleno Sepulveda Acosta, 25, of Puyallup; Jose Martin Villa Rivera, 31, and Jacqueline C. Villa, 28, of Lynnwood; Raul Alfaro Munoz, 35, Julio Cesar Villafana, 32, Ernesto Millan Velderrain, 48, and Geoffrey Wright, 42, all of Everett; Luis Fernando Soto Baez, 24, and Edgar Omar Hernandez Valdez, 24, both of Marysville; Brian Batts, 48, of Snohomish; Santos Segundo Gerardo, 21, of Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and Mitzy Patino Leon, 21, of San Luis, Ariz.

Brothers Ermes Heden Olais Rocha and Gabriel Olais Rocha, along with Ismael Moreno Diaz, are also named in the indictment but have not been taken into custody, according to court documents.

In addition to the guns seized from the two Olais Rocha brothers, agents seized eight pounds of crystal meth, seven pounds of heroin, more than $174,000 in cash and 10 vehicles.

The South Snohomish County Narcotics Task Force began investigating what's come to be known as the Olais Rocha organization in 2009, which is believed to be linked to the Sinaloa drug cartel in Sinaloa, Mexico. Undercover officers bought drugs from members of the ring and started building a case.

The Olais Rocha drug-smuggling ring "is an ongoing, multigenerational criminal enterprise consisting primarily of family members, which has been operating for an unknown period but at least since 2009," court documents say.

In January, agents with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency teamed up with task-force members and secured wiretaps for the suspects' cellphones.

Listening in on those conversations provided "insight into the flow of drugs and cash, and the violence that is part and parcel of the drug trade," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a news release. Some of the recorded conversations were discussions about contract killings of "unknown persons in Mexico," the release says.

According to federal authorities, drugs were smuggled across the Mexico-U.S. border to a stash house in Phoenix. Drugs and cash were then packed into secret compartments of vehicles or in voids within the frame of a vehicle — in gas tanks, behind dashboards and underneath truck beds, court records say.

Drugs destined for Washington were delivered to a stash house in Puyallup, and from there, were "dispersed and redistributed," the records say. Some of the meth and heroine allegedly smuggled by the ring ended up as far east as Ohio and Alabama.

Cash was wired back to Mexico or smuggled in bulk in vehicles to Arizona, and from there, across the border, either by "body couriers" or concealed in vehicles, court documents say.

Task Force Cmdr. Jim Nelson, who is also the investigations commander for the Lynnwood Police Department, said the Olais Rocha organization was a sophisticated, careful operation that allegedly moved substantial quantities of meth and heroine directly from Mexico.

"There was a constant flow of illegal drugs into Arizona and up into our region," Nelson said. "That flow has ended. There's been a noticeable impact on just the normal, street-level drug trafficking in our area."

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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