'The Pacific Northwest is drowning in methamphetamine:' 17 arrested in major drug trafficking operation

SEATTLE -- Authorities arrested 17 alleged drug traffickers and confiscated large amounts of methamphetamine and heroin Wednesday after a large multi-agency raid across the Puget Sound area.

The U.S. Justice Department says the drugs were being smuggled into the Seattle area. Officers seized 37.5 pounds of meth and 27 pounds of heroin during the whole operation. The DEA also seized $10,000 in cash and six firearms.

“At the height of the opioid epidemic, the Pacific Northwest is also drowning in methamphetamine,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis.  "It's a stimulant, so we believe it's one of the components that's driving the opiod epidemic because many times, the data shows that users associate methamphetamine or use methamphetamine to counteract opiod withdrawal symptoms, physical pain, a lack of energy. They utilize the stimulant to gain energy," he said.

Federal agents were tipped off to the drug trafficking operation in September 2018 and worked with numerous local agencies in planning the raid.

DEA photo

"The DEA has had a record amount of seizures this year. More than 3,400 pounds of methamphetamine has been seized, over 60 percent of that here in the state of Washington," said Weis.

Of the 10 locations searched Wednesday by King County Sheriff's deputies and DEA agents, one was a home in SeaTac and another was near South Park.

“Federal law enforcement continues to target those who seek to poison our communities and to line their pockets on the misery of others,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  “I commend the men and women of law enforcement who put their lives on the line to stem those who traffic in violence, addiction and death.”

Sixteen people were indicted and a 17th person was charged by criminal complaint after Wednesday's searches:

    The case is prosecuted by Assistant US Attorneys Andrew Colasurdo and Marci Ellsworth.

    The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Tacoma Resident Office, the Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (TNET) and the Burien Police Department (BPD) Street Team. TNET is comprised of the Tacoma, Lakewood, Auburn, Bonney Lake, and Puyallup Police Departments, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC).  Other assisting agencies include the Kent Police Department and the King County Sheriff’s Office SeaTac Police Department Street Team.  The investigation was supported by North West High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (NW HIDTA).

    In addition to the agencies listed above, these law enforcement agencies assisted with the arrests and search warrants executed: King County SWAT, Valley SWAT, Pierce County SWAT, Washington State Patrol SWAT, Lakewood Police Tactical Team, Valley Narcotics Enforcement Team (VNET), Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (VNET), West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team (WestNet), Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office, Hoquiam Police Department and Aberdeen Police Department.