SEATTLE — The leader of a major Snohomish County fentanyl ring was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in federal prison.
In August, a jury in U.S. District Court convicted Bradley Woolard, 42, of Arlington, of 28 counts of drug trafficking and money laundering.
Judge John Coughenour also fined Woolard $250,000.
Two other high-level members of the Snohomish County operation, Anthony Pelayo, of Marysville, and Jerome Isham, of Everett, were sentenced last week to 15 and 10 years, respectively. Both sentences handed down by Coughenour were mandatory minimums. Pelayo also was fined $150,000. He and Isham were both convicted on fewer charges than Woolard. Isham filed an appeal of his conviction and sentence in a federal appellate court Monday.
Woolard’s defense attorneys pushed for a 12-year sentence. Prosecutors wanted 20 years.
“It’s a long time, but there was a lot of drugs and a lot of money,” Coughenour said.
Fentanyl is a highly potent synthetic opioid that has been attributed to a dramatic spike in overdoses both locally and nationally. So far this year, there have been 114 overdose deaths involving fentanyl in Snohomish County, according to the medical examiner’s office. There were 124 in 2020, 71 in 2019 and 47 in 2018.
“A life sentence is being served, as we sit here today, by the hundreds, by the anonymous addicts Mr. Woolard served his pills to,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Lang said in court Tuesday morning. “It is a sentence being served today by their parents. It is a sentence being served by their families, by their brothers and sisters.”
Woolard hopes to work as a contractor for home remodels after his release, he wrote in a letter to the judge earlier this month.
He cried as he addressed the judge Tuesday.
“I hope that I get to get home with some time … and basically start a new life,” Woolard said.
After the hearing, a family member of Woolard’s told one of the prosecutors, “Shame on you.”
The sentence comes more than three years after a July 2018 raid of Woolard’s Arlington-area home. Officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force found more than 12,000 fentanyl pills pressed to look like prescription oxycodone. The blue pills, with an “M” on one side and “30” on the other, tested positive for furanyl fentanyl, a combination of fentanyl and another controlled substance.
In other searches of Woolard’s five-acre property, authorities found more than $1 million in cash and gold hidden in a secret room, along with 29 firearms — rifles, shotguns, pistols — and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
The month of the raid, Woolard texted a friend, “I’m sitting on 1.7 (million) plus I’ll have 600k in the bank next month.” He also said he had “enough fentanyl to make $12 million in pills,” according to prosecutors.
Woolard learned how to buy fentanyl through the “dark web,” a part of the internet where users can hide their activities, according to testimony during the 10-day trial. He had been trafficking drugs for about three years when his house was raided.
In a home office trash can, federal authorities seized shipping labels marked “Lab Supplies.” One had been sent from an address in Nanjing, China, to a home near Verlot in Snohomish County.
The defendant told his Chinese supplier he would pay extra to fill his large fentanyl orders, prosecutors wrote in court papers. In one message to his supplier, he wrote he would pay $40,000 for two kilograms. In another, he said, “I wish u could deliver 10 kg but two will get me by a while.”
Woolard taught himself how to make homemade pills. He bought a pill press and mixing materials online. His operation had the capacity to produce 2.5 million pills containing fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl, according to trial testimony. He regularly provided thousands of pills to dealers.
At the same time, Woolard was going to Costa Rica and Mexico for treatment for his own drug addictions that reportedly began after he broke his ankle in 2001. That cost him between $30,000 and $50,000 per month, which he paid for with money made from the fentanyl operation. He wrote to the judge that his addiction cost him about $1,000 a day.
“When released I plan to get professional help with both my addiction and the pain that helped start it,” he wrote. “I can honestly say that the life lessons I have learned the last 3 years have been learned the hard way and I will not forget them.”
Pelayo took over the pill-making operation in 2017, continuing Woolard’s work in rural Snohomish County, while Woolard kept ordering fentanyl from China.
Woolard was arrested in September 2018 as he tried to cross the border into the United States from Mexico.
He had little prior criminal history. His only felony conviction was in 2004, for using a building to grow marijuana, according to court papers.
Eleven defendants faced criminal charges in the drug ring. Eight have pleaded guilty. Most were sentenced to time served.