Federal agents seized many pounds of meth and heroin, along with thousands of suspected fentanyl pills, at a 10-acre property east of Arlington in mid-December 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Federal agents seized many pounds of meth and heroin, along with thousands of suspected fentanyl pills, at a 10-acre property east of Arlington in mid-December 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Leader of Snohomish County fentanyl, meth ring gets federal prison

A search of Cesar Valdez-Sanudo’s property in Arlington unearthed kilos of drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

SEATTLE — The leader of a major Snohomish County drug trafficking ring, who buried pounds of methampetamine, heroin and fentanyl and hundreds of thousands of dollars across his Arlington property, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in federal prison.

In a letter to a federal judge, Cesar Valdez-Sanudo, 36, wrote he fell in love with this country when he moved here at 16. As he made a family, he wanted to provide for them, but he “could only make so much working construction.”

“I took a path that I thought was the path to success but I now see that was an illusion,” the defendant wrote. “Everything I worked for is now dust and I have put my family in a terrible position, and all I have to show for it is the drugs I sold to others. I know I must suffer for what I did, and being apart from my family for so long is suffering for sure.”

He added: “This is the hardest thing I have ever faced, but I hope that I can start again someday, and next time I will appreciate what I have.”

In April 2019, detectives first identified Cesar Valdez-Sanudo as a drug supplier, court records show. For months, they investigated his operation, frequently thwarted by Valdez-Sanudo constantly changing phones.

Over a year later, federal investigators got authorization for a wiretap, allowing them to see the breadth of the organization reportedly distributing massive amounts of fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine throughout Western Washington.

In November 2020, investigators intercepted a call from another ring member, Aaron Alarcon-Castaneda, of California, to Valdez-Sanudo. The California man said he’d seen the “waters,” an apparent reference to a meth package. Alarcon-Castaneda also referred to a 50-pound shipment. They arranged for a courier named Fausto Paz to deliver the drugs to Valdez-Sanudo’s 10-acre Arlington compound, according to court documents.

The drugs seized from a Clorox box and an air mattress box in the car of a courier in November 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

The drugs seized from a Clorox box and an air mattress box in the car of a courier in November 2020. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

In the days following, agents intercepted more communications, allowing them to track Paz as he transported the meth. After Paz crossed the Oregon-Washington border on I-5, Centralia police stopped him. A search of the truck uncovered a Clorox box and an air mattress box, both filled with drugs, prosecutors alleged.

Meanwhile, Valdez-Sanudo thought Paz had stolen the drugs. So he told Alarcon-Castaneda to torture the courier, according to court papers.

The next month, in December 2020, agents searched several properties associated with Valdez-Sanudo.

At the Arlington compound, investigators found stashes of drugs and money buried throughout the property. Under an ATV parked inside a carport, for example, they discovered a wooden box with meth. And buried under gravel below a parked Mercedes, they found about 10,000 suspected fentanyl pills, according to court documents.

In a trailer, there was a map seeming to show where the drugs and money were buried.

The map found in the search of Cesar Valdez-Sanudo’s property in Arlington eportedly showing where drugs and money were buried. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

The map found in the search of Cesar Valdez-Sanudo’s property in Arlington eportedly showing where drugs and money were buried. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

In total, authorities unearthed 27.5 kilograms of meth, 5.8 kilograms of heroin, 1.8 kilograms of suspected fentanyl pills and $313,000, court papers say.

That day, investigators served search warrants on over a dozen other properties, where they reportedly found two dozen guns, tens of thousands of fentanyl pills, nearly 100 pounds of meth and $525,000.

On top of that, Valdez-Sanudo and his wife, Yvette Olguin, laundered money through real estate and car purchases as well as casino winnings, according to court documents.

When police arrested Valdez-Sanudo at Snoqualmie Casino, he had three guns in his car, including one with a homemade silencer. He told others he planned to confront a ring member who owed him money, according to prosecutors.

The month of the searches, a federal grand jury indicted Valdez-Sanudo and 10 members of his organization in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Prosecutors charged more co-conspirators later.

In June 2022, Valdez-Sanudo, who had no criminal history, pleaded guilty to three charges: conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to commit money laundering and carrying a firearm in relation to drug trafficking

Prosecutors pushed for a 15-year sentence. The defense requested 10 years.

On Tuesday, Judge John Coughenour sided with the prosecution.

“This is a long prison sentence, but given the harm these drugs are doing in our community, it is the appropriate sanction,” U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said in a statement.

Four other ring members have already been sentenced.

Paz, the courier, was sentenced to four years.

Wayne Frisby, a Marysville man and blind rapper who distributed the drugs, got six years.

Keith Silverson, another dealer from Tacoma, also got six years.

And Gabriel Vazquez-Ruiz, of Bothell, got 10.

Several more have pleaded guilty and await sentencing, including:

• Olguin, of Everett;

• Omar Vazquez-Limon, of Kent;

• Jose Arredondo-Valdez, of Lake Stevens;

• Steven Delvecchio, of Snohomish;

• Tracy Hawkins, of Gold Bar;

• Ana Pacheco.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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