By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Two former Snohomish County men are off to federal prison for their part in a drug trafficking operation with ties to one of the most violent drug cartels in the world.
Orlando Olais Rocha, a ringleader of local drug runners, was sentenced Friday to 17 years in prison. His younger brother, Everardo Olais Rocha, identified as the second in command, was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison.
Both men pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
“These brothers and other family members led a group trafficking large quantities of extremely pure and deadly heroin and methamphetamine,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said. “These drugs not only destroy lives, families and communities, they are part of a culture of violence impacting both the U.S. and Mexico.”
The siblings were snared during a two-year investigation into drug peddling 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 separate Snohomish County drug ring with ties to La Familia, a different Mexican cartel.
The Rocha brothers were connected to the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, authorities said. That 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, Lynnwood police Cmdr. Jim Nelson said.
The task force is made up of detectives from the Lynnwood, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace police departments.
The drug ring smuggled 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 brothers, 32 and 28, lived in Lynnwood. Other gang members were operating out of Everett, Marysville, Snohomish and Puyallup.
Federal authorities used wiretaps to monitor cellphones in an effort to track the organization’s movements.
In June 2011, detectives and drug agents raided several locations, including apartments in Lynnwood and Everett and a home in Snohomish’s Dutch Hill neighborhood.
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.
Eighteen people were indicted in connection with the drug trafficking operation. All but three have been sentenced.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.