They did ‘business’ at a car wash. Now they’re on their way to federal prisons


Three men authorities say were part of a drug ring that sold heroin, meth and cocaine in Whatcom, Skagit, King and Snohomish counties were sentenced in U.S. District court in Seattle on Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney Anette L. Hayes said Wednesday the leader of the drug ring, Baltazar Reyes-Garcia, 45, of Camano Island, was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison.

Reyes-Garcia’s co-defendants, Hector Contreras-Ibarra, 33, of Pasco, and Angel Serrano-Carreno, 30, of Mount Vernon, were ordered to serve 15 and 13 years, respectively.

The investigation involving the drug ring centered in Mount Vernon – key members of the drug organization would often meet and “conduct their deals,” at a car wash there – the investigation that nailed the ring was code named “Operation Car Wash,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Following a 10-day trial in October, a jury found the trio guilty of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and various counts of drug distribution.

Serrano-Carreno was also convicted of possession of heroin with intent to distribute and illegal possession of ammunition.

At Reyes-Garcia’s sentencing, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart classified the quantities of drugs distributed by the ring as “immensely alarming,” calling Reyes-Garcia a “major drug supplier.”

“The kilograms of heroin, meth and cocaine that these defendants sold ultimately became hundreds and thousands of doses of poison in addicts’ hands,” Hayes said in a news release Wednesday. “Make no mistake – these drugs kill or otherwise destroy lives.”

Fourteen other co-conspirators charged in the case pleaded guilty in the months following their arrests in November 2016 – those other ring members have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to 12 years.

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, California, Mexico, and British Columbia.

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,” the U.S . Attorney’s Office said.

“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,” Hayes said. “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 agencies.

John Mangalonzo: 360-715-2280, @JMangalonzo