Two men indicted on drug charges after 11 pounds of heroin found

MARYSVILLE — The 11 pounds of heroin stashed away in a black duffle bag in the backseat of a pickup truck was headed for the streets of Snohomish County.

It was bundled into eight separate packages and worth about $180,000 wholesale. It would have netted much more once it was repackaged and sold off.

On Wednesday, a federal grand jury in Seattle indicted two men on multiple crimes for a drug-trafficking ring operating out of Marysville. The men were arrested in August after they allegedly sold heroin to an informant working with police.

The informant reported back to detectives that Socorro Alejandres-Alvarez offered to sell him up to 50 kilograms, or 110 pounds, of heroin at a price of $1.8 million, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul wrote in court papers.

Alejandres-Alvarez, 25, initially was charged in Snohomish County Superior Court following an investigation by Homeland Security and the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force.

The state charge was dismissed earlier this month when the case was turned over to federal prosecutors.

A U.S. District Court grand jury indicted Alejandres-Alvarez, a Mexican national, with drug and weapons charges. A second man, Juan Carlos Ortiz-Ramos, also was indicted. The men were being detained pending trial. Alejandres-Alvarez has been deported back to Mexico at least twice, according to court records.

Detectives became aware of the men in July after receiving a tip that they were selling large quantities of heroin.

Two informants met with Alejandres-Alvarez inside a Lynnwood Panda Express, where they discussed the possible sale of 20 to 50 kilograms of heroin at $36,000 per kilo, according to court documents. Alejandres-Alvarez allegedly offered to take the informants to his Marysville house to show them his supply. They declined but agreed to meet up with him later to get a sample.

Investigators followed Alejandres-Alvarez to his Marysville house, located in the 6700 block of 71st Street NE.

About two weeks later, he allegedly met with an informant at a McDonald’s on the Tulalip Indian Reservation where he handed over an ounce of heroin for free. He told the informant he wasn’t going to sell multiple kilos during their first deal. Instead, they talked about the sale of five kilograms, or roughly 11 pounds.

Alejandres-Alvarez allegedly called the informant a couple of weeks later to arrange the deal. He said he’d just received his shipment and they agreed to meet up a in a few days.

Investigators set up surveillance on Alejandres-Alvarez’s Marysville house. The informant met him at the Tulalip Walmart. The two stayed behind while Ortiz-Ramos retrieved a black duffle back from the Marysville house.

He returned to Walmart where he met up with the two waiting men. Police arrested the defendants as they drove away.

They found a loaded handgun and broken cellphone on the floorboard. They searched the truck and located 11 pounds of heroin in the black duffle bag Ortiz-Ramos was seen loading into the pickup.

Alejandres-Alvarez said he’d picked up the drugs earlier in the day in a parking lot in north Seattle. He told police he’d only known his supplier for a week but declined to say anything more about the man.

The seized heroin would have fed the growing epidemic that is killing thousands of people nationwide every year.

Heroin deaths rates have quadrupled over the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Snohomish County, heroin and prescription opioids were responsible for two-thirds of the 130 accidental overdose deaths in 2013.

The sheriff’s office reported in June that more than 90 percent of the inmates locked up in the county jail’s medical unit were withdrawing from heroin.

Meanwhile roughly 70 percent of those admitted to the county’s only publicly funded detox facility report that heroin is their drug of choice.

Heroin-use exploded in recent years as people addicted to prescription pain medications looked for a cheaper alternative.

Mexico produces nearly half of the heroin sold in the U.S. Afghanistan is the largest producer in the world, supplying Europe and Asia.

The Mexican heroin trade is mostly run by the notoriously violent Sinaloa cartel that for decades controlled the pipeline of cocaine and marijuana shipped to the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley.

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