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Published: Friday, August 19, 2011, 3:50 p.m.

Suspected Snohomish County drug runners linked to violent drug cartel, officials say

LYNNWOOD -- Suspected drug runners living in Snohomish County have ties to one of the largest and most-violent drug cartels in the world, authorities announced Friday.
More than a dozen members of an alleged drug trafficking operation were indicted Thursday on federal drug and weapons charges as part of a two-year investigation into heroin and methamphetamine sales in the Puget Sound area.
Detectives with the South Snohomish County Drug Task Force and federal agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating members of the drug ring in 2009.
That's about the time that the task force and DEA were wrapping up an investigation into a Snohomish County drug ring with ties to La Familia, a different Mexican cartel, Lynnwood police Cmdr. Jim Nelson said.
The task force is made up of detectives from Lynnwood, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace police departments.
Those indicted Thursday are connected to the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, he said. The cartel is behind thousands of vicious killings and kidnappings in the bloody battle to stay on top of the multibillion-dollar drug trade.
The money made in drug sales here likely helped finance the cartel's operations in Mexico, Nelson said.
The drug ring is accused of smuggling large amounts of heroin and meth to a stash house in Arizona. From there the drugs were secreted in cars and pickup trucks. They were transported as far east as Alabama and Ohio and as far north as Washington, authorities said.
The two suspected leaders, Orlando Olais Rocha and his brother Everardo Olais Rocha, lived in Lynnwood. Others were operating out of Everett, Marysville, Snohomish and Puyallup.
Federal authorities used wiretaps to monitor cell phone conversations in an effort to track the organization's movements. Authorities overheard some members discussing contract killings of unknown people in Mexico, according to prosecutors.
Detectives and drug agents in June raided several locations, including apartments in Lynnwood and Everett and a home in Snohomish's Dutch Hill neighborhood.
During the raids police found eight pounds of crystal meth and seven pounds of heroin. They also seized 10 vehicles, $174,000, and nine guns, including a AK-47 assault rifle, according to court papers.
Fifteen of the 18 people indicted were arrested. In addition to the Olais Rocha brothers, the other Snohomish County defendants include: Jose Martin Villa Rivera, Jacqueline Villa, Raul Alfaro Munoz, Julio Cesar Villafana, Luis Fernando Soto Baez, Edgar Omar Hernandez Valdez, Ernesto Millan Velderrain, Brian Batts and Geoffrey Wright.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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