EVERSON - An alleged cocaine and meth smuggler was charged in federal court this week after U.S. Border Patrol agents said he helped his brother and another person elude arrest in Everson.
A task force led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement was prepared to arrest Domingo Franco-Ortiz and his brother, Fermin Franco-Ortiz, as they left their apartment at 210 W. Main St. in tandem at 5:50 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
The suspects took separate cars: a black Honda Accord and a silver Suzuki Aerio.
A Whatcom County Sheriff's deputy stopped the Accord, allegedly driven by Fermin, at Everson-Goshen Road and Dahlquist Lane. The suspect handed over a driver's license with Fermin's name on it, according to the complaint. A green-and-black backpack was visible in the rear of the car. The deputy told the driver to turn off the ignition.
The car sped off, according to the complaint.
Deputies pursued the car; which was soon found abandoned at La Gloria Market, 7310 Everson-Goshen Road. Minutes later, deputies discovered that the backpack had been dumped in the road - then run over by a car and torn apart - in the Mead Avenue area.
Small chunks of methamphetamine were "strewn across the road" along with "two bricks of what appeared to be cocaine," according to the criminal complaint. In all, investigators found 2.2 kilograms of cocaine and about 500 grams of meth, agents alleged. A loaded Taurus 9mm handgun was in the car's front passenger seat.
Fermin and an unidentified passenger in the Accord weren't caught, said Andrew Munoz, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. They remain at large.
Neighbors reported an extensive search by helicopter that shut down several streets Saturday evening.
In the meantime, Domingo's car was stopped, too.
He didn't run. Instead, he confessed that he was in the U.S. illegally and that "his role in smuggling the drugs was to assist F. Franco-Ortiz by using the Suzuki to intercept any law enforcement personnel" who tried to stop the Accord, according to federal agents.
Domingo was charged Monday with conspiring to distribute meth and cocaine.
Munoz expected to obtain security clearance to release a photo of Fermin on Wednesday.