Crime

Feds indict 30 in alleged drug-trafficking conspiracy with Whatcom County ties

Washington state crimes by the numbers

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs 2017 Crime in Washington Annual Report details crimes against persons, property and society statistics from agencies that serve about 92% of the state.
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The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs 2017 Crime in Washington Annual Report details crimes against persons, property and society statistics from agencies that serve about 92% of the state.

Thirteen people were arrested Thursday, Sept. 5, and a total of 30 charged in two federal grand jury indictments alleging a conspiracy to traffic hundreds of pounds of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine from Mexico through Southern California and to Canada in exchange for cash and MDMA or ecstasy.

At least some of the narcotics were moved through or exchanged in Whatcom County, according to the indictments.

Law enforcement also seized approximately 944.7 pounds of cocaine, 19.8 pounds of heroin, 102.7 pounds of methamphetamine and 106.1 pounds of MDMA or ecstasy, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California. Approximately $811,000 in Canadian currency also was seized.

According to the indictments and other court documents, the 30 defendants were members of international drug trafficking organizations that worked together and conspired to distribute, import and export the narcotics. The organization transported bulk quantities of the drugs internationally, the release stated.

Some of the defendants also conspired to transport narcotics to Australia from Southern California, according to the release.

Three defendants were arrested in Southern California, the release said, while the rest were arrested in the Seattle or Vancouver, B.C., areas, and three defendants will be transferred from state to federal custody.

Some of the drug-trafficking organizations included members of Canadian, Mexican, Serbian, Chinese and Sudanese organized crime groups, according to court documents, and defendants reportedly used modified cellular devices with military-grade encryption to communicate with each other.

According to one of the two indictments, on Feb. 23, 2019, one of the defendants, Marlene Whitmore, received approximately 12 kilograms (26.5 pounds) of a substance she believed to be cocaine from another defendant, Khonsavanh Vorachack (also known as “Buddy” and “Kevin”), who had agreed to cooperate with law enforcement. Whitmore reportedly received the cocaine in exchange for $3,000 and confirmed making the pick up using coded language in a text message.

Later that day, according to the indictment, Whitmore was found in Edison still in possession of the 12 kilograms of the substance she believed was cocaine.

According to the other indictment, on June 10, 2017, another defendant, Saysana Luangkhamdeng (also known as “Say,” “George” and “Wheels”), attempted to cross the U.S.-Canada border in Blaine while in possession of approximately 24.2 kilograms (53.4 pounds) of suspected MDMA, which he intended to distribute.

Both indictments mentioned drugs being transported across the U.S.-Canada border on a number of other occasions and exchanges being made in Langley, Burnaby and Vancouver, B.C., but did not include information about how or where the drugs were transported across the border.

If convicted, defendants could face between 10 years and life in federal prison, according to the release.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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