7 people arrested in Seattle connected to national drug trafficking operation
SEATTLE - Federal agents made a huge bust in a national drug trafficking operation that has Washington connections.
Nick Brown, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington announced details of the 10-month investigation on Friday.
The national sting started in Pittsburg in the spring of 2022. Through a wiretap investigation, federal agents started monitoring suspect Bryce "Benji" Hill, a key member of the drug trafficking operation who made his rounds from coast to coast, including Washington and Arizona. His arrest in January 2023 led to seven more people being arrested in Seattle this week.
"Some very significant players were arrested and indicted," said Brown. "We’re really focused on doing everything we can to disrupt these organizations. Any time that you can arrest as many people and charge as many people as we have across the country, it’s going to have an impact. But the work is going to be ongoing."
"This national operation has exposed the links that these cartel fentanyl trafficking organizations will go to in order to get the pills into this country and into our communities," said special agent Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations operations in the Pacific Northwest.
Brown said the drugs, including hundreds of thousands of fentanyl-laced pills, came from a Mexico-based cartel. During the 10-month national investigation, 90 people were including seven in Seattle.
"We’re always focused on as high up in a cartel organization and operation as we can go. The types of folks that we have here are the mid-level distributors, redistributors. So, we’re not talking about people dealing small amounts on the streets," said Brown.
Photo from DOJ
The Drug Enforcement Administration said 6 out of 10 laced pills contain a deadly dose of 2.4 grams of fentanyl. The DEA said 27 kilograms (approximately 60 pounds) worth of fentanyl-laced pills were seized during this week’s Seattle bust.
"With the seizure of the 27 kilograms of fentanyl pills in a Seattle apartment here, we potentially saved 162,000 lives," said special agent Jacob Galvan, in charge of the DEA Seattle Field Division.
Hammer said the pills and drugs arrived in Washington by car, packaging, or some distributors would pack a suitcase full of pills and make it through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on "almost a daily basis."
"This helps us expose their transportation methodology, leveraging Sea-Tac here in this region in this region. And of course we’ll be following up on those leads, looking at how those vulnerabilities existed and hoping to close those gaps," said Hammer.
Brown said in the drug trafficking sting in Seattle, federal agents also recovered 21 guns, extended magazines and ammunition.
"Some of them from suspected murderers and others that local law enforcement themselves say have been involved in violence since they were juveniles," explained hammer.
In addition to the seven people arrested in Seattle, two more people from western Washington were arrested in Pennsylvania. During the arrests, federal agents also seized methamphetamine, cocaine and several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The 90 people arrested were indicted in states including Washington and Pennsylvania. The suspects face state and federal charges.