LAKE STEVENS — In a strip mall off 20th Street NE, you could order chilaquiles for $12.99 at Fuente de Café.
Or customers could get meth and fentanyl from the then-owner, who dealt drugs out of the restaurant, according to prosecutors.
On Thursday, a federal judge sentenced Laura Rodriguez-Moreno to 10 years in prison for leading a drug trafficking ring out of the restaurant with her husband.
In the spring of 2020, agents began to suspect Rodriguez-Moreno, now 46, and her husband, Jose Morales-Flores, were dealing meth, fentanyl and heroin, according to court papers. Seattle police had been investigating the couple for a few months. An informant had twice bought a pound of meth from the couple.
In April 2020, authorities arrested Omar Israel-Morales, the couple’s 18-year-old son who law enforcement reportedly suspected of trying to sell 500 pills laced with fentanyl. They also found about $10,000 in the truck he was driving.
The son was part of the drug dealing operation, federal prosecutors alleged. Three days after his arrest, Rodriguez-Moreno directed her son to deliver 10 pounds of meth to a woman in a truck outside the restaurant.
“On the chairs next to where you guys were sitting, there are two bags,” Rodriguez-Moreno told her son over the phone, according to transcripts of the call intercepted by law enforcement. “Pick up the one that is heavy.”
”The other has, uh (ponchos) and what not. Do not give her that one, do not accidentally give her that one,” the mother reportedly added.
A few minutes later, the woman in the white truck arrived at the Lake Stevens restaurant. The son walked out with a large black plastic bag, opened the rear passenger door and left the bag in the truck, court papers say.
A couple months later, the family gave the same woman 3,000 fentanyl pills. Authorities stopped her and recovered the pills.
Around the same time, federal agents arranged for an informant to buy a pound of meth and an ounce of heroin. Morales-Flores, now 39, drove to their Marysville home, retrieved the drugs, brought them back to Fuente de Café and sold them to the informant, according to court documents.
A few days later, the informant returned to the restaurant to buy 700 fentanyl pills.
Agents also intercepted calls with a man who helped the family acquire meth and heroin from California. He also arranged some of their deals. For example, in May 2020, he set up a meeting to deliver 2 pounds of meth to someone in a 7-Eleven parking lot, according to investigators.
In September 2020, police arrested the couple and their son at their Marysville home. Inside the house, officers found two guns and $17,600 in cash.
In April of last year, Rodriguez-Moreno pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in U.S. District Court in Seattle. In her plea, she acknowledged distributing more than 16 kilograms of meth and nearly a kilogram of pills containing fentanyl, the lethal drug responsible for hundreds of overdoses in Snohomish County in recent years.
At sentencing Thursday, federal prosecutors pushed for a 10-year prison term. The defense asked for nine.
Judge John Coughenour sided with prosecutors.
After pleading guilty, Morales-Flores was sentenced in October 2021 to 10 years. But he cut off his GPS monitoring to bracelet and didn’t report to prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Authorities were still looking for him this week.
Israel-Morales, the son, got three years probation.
“Ms. Rodriguez-Moreno was distributing pound quantities of methamphetamine and thousands of fentanyl pills. But what is most shocking is that she had her teen-age son engaging in drug distribution at her direction,” U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said in a statement. “She and her husband put their restaurant and the security of their five children at risk when they became drug traffickers. Now those children are without their parents for significant time.”
County records show the ownership of Fuente de Café changed hands last year.
This article has been clarified to note Fuente de Café has changed ownership.
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.
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