A grand jury indicted 27 men and women, including a Renton man and an Auburn man, on drug trafficking charges for involvement in the distribution of fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Several of the indicted have ties to the “Aryan Family,” a white supremacist prison gang, according to the Department of Justice.
The 27 individuals face various charges including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, and attempted possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
Thomas Carver, a 59-year-old Auburn man, and Shawn Ellis, a 31-year-old Renton man, both face a single charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances for trafficking in fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.
The indictment arrives after the seizure of 177 firearms, more than 22 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 24 pounds of fentanyl pills and more than two pounds of fentanyl powder, more than six and a half pounds of heroin, and more than $330,000 in cash on March 22 from various locations in Washington and Arizona.
The takedown involved 10 SWAT teams and more than 350 law enforcement officers, according to the department.
Law enforcement also arrested the alleged leader of the organization, 39-year-old Jesse James Bailey of Steilacoom, Washington. According to the department, Bailey serves as an influential member of the Aryan Family prison gang and allegedly trafficked “huge amounts” of fentanyl, methamphetamine and other substances in Washington, Idaho and Alaska.
The FBI-led multi-jurisdictional investigation involved teamwork from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Washington State Department of Corrections, local police agencies and more.
Law enforcement have conducted investigations into the drug trafficking ring for more than a year and a half.
Prior to the takedown on March 22, law enforcement seized 830,000 fentanyl pills, five and a half pounds of fentanyl powder, 223 pounds of methamphetamine, three and a half pounds of heroin, five pounds of cocaine, $388,000 in cash, and 48 firearms from the enterprise.
“The fentanyl seized in this operation contained enough lethal doses to kill everyone who lives in Tacoma and Seattle, with enough lethal doses left over to poison another half a million people,” said Jacob D. Galva of the Drug Enforcement Agency in the news release.
Detention hearings for several defendants took place on March 27 in Tacoma. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Max Shiner and Zach Dillon will serve as the prosecutors on the case moving forward.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl serves as a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
Seattle and King County’s Public Health department attributed fentanyl involvement to 70% of all confirmed overdose deaths in 2022, and the recent and exponential rise in overdose deaths. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of overdose deaths jumped 20%. Between 2020 and 2021, that number jumped an additional 39%, according to a report from the department.