Three men authorities say were part of a drug ring that distributed heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine in Whatcom, Skagit, King and Snohomish counties were found guilty following a 10-day jury trial in federal court this week.
The probe centered in Mount Vernon – key members of the drug organization would often meet and “conduct their deals,” at a car wash in Mount Vernon, and the investigation that ultimately nailed the ring was code named “Operation Car Wash,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Baltazar Reyes-Garcia, 45, of Camano Island; Hector Contreras-Ibarra, 33, of Pasco, and Angel Serrano-Carreno, 30, of Mount Vernon, were convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and various specific counts of drug distribution.
Serrano-Carreno was also convicted of possession of heroin with intent to distribute and illegal possession of ammunition.
The jury deliberated for about five hours before reaching the verdict.
All three face mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentences. They are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 16.
Fourteen other co-conspirators charged in the case pleaded guilty in the months following their arrests in November 2016. Authorities said the suspects operated stash houses on Camano Island and in Mount Vernon, as well as in Yakima and Franklin counties, and they had drug connections in Nevada and California.
Operation Car Wash, which was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, investigated the ring in 2015 and early 2016. Operatives used “pole cameras, confidential sources, wiretaps and undercover officers to document the drug distribution activity, and identify the leaders of the ring,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“In November 2016, law enforcement served search warrants on more than two dozen locations seizing two kilos of cocaine, more than $180,000 cash, and more than 20 firearms – including a loaded AK47,” U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said in the release. “Those totals were in addition to the seizures made during the investigation: eight kilos of methamphetamine, two kilos of cocaine, nearly a kilo of heroin, and more than $117,000 in cash.”
The Whatcom Gang & Drug Task Force and Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the federal investigation – along with other state and regional law enforcement.