A year-and-a-half-long investigation into a drug trafficking organization with ties to a white supremacist prison gang resulted in 24 federal arrests in Washington and Arizona last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Monday.
In total, 27 people have been indicted by a grand jury for drug trafficking, and many of those in the indictment are tied to the “Aryan Family,” a white supremacist prison gang, U.S. Attorney Nick Brown stated in a news release.
The alleged leader of the drug trafficking organization, Jesse James Bailey, is an influential member of the Aryan Family prison gang, according to the release.
Bailey is accused of trafficking “huge amounts” of fentanyl, methamphetamine and other drugs in Washington, Idaho and Alaska, according to the news release.
“The level of danger is high when you have people connected to Aryan prison gangs spreading drugs and using guns in our community,” Brown said.
Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized 830,000 fentanyl pills, 5.5 pounds of fentanyl powder, 223 pounds of methamphetamine, 3.5 pounds of heroin, 5 pounds of cocaine, $388,000 in cash and 48 firearms, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As part of last week’s coordinated takedown, which involved 10 SWAT teams and more than 350 law enforcement officers, law enforcement seized an additional 177 firearms, more than 10 kilos of methamphetamine, 11 kilos of fentanyl pills and more than a kilo of fentanyl powder, 3 kilos of heroin and more than $330,000 in cash from 18 locations in Washington and Arizona on Wednesday, March 22.
“The sheer amount of narcotics seized in this investigation is shocking,” said Jacob D. Galvan, acting special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s Seattle office, in the news release. “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.”
This case is part of an investigation by Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, which identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks, according to the news release.
The Thurston and Lewis county sheriff’s offices are among the agencies credited for their assistance in the investigation.
“It takes a highly skilled team to investigate, disrupt and dismantle a sophisticated group of criminals like this,” said Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Cheryl Strange. “Fentanyl use by incarcerated individuals and those under DOC supervision in the community has become a serious problem. Removing a major supplier of this deadly drug is a huge victory for all Washingtonians.”
Many of the 27 people who were indicted were expected to have detention hearings in Tacoma on Monday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. All were in federal custody as of Monday unless otherwise noted. They include:
• Jesse James Bailey, 39, of Steilacoom, Washington, in custody
• Thomas Carver, 59, of Auburn, in custody
• Bryson Gill, 30, of Buckeye, Arizona, in custody in Arizona
• Yehoshua Kilp, 37, incarcerated in Washington state prison
• Gustavo Castellanos-Tapia, 37, of Burien, in custody
• Candice Bailey, 41, of Steilacoom, in custody
• Ronald McComb, 58, of Ridgefield, in custody
• Keagen Larsen, 28, currently incarcerated in King County Jail
• Sean Moinette, 54, of Spanaway, in custody
• Gregory Beers, 30, of Edgewood, being sought by law enforcement
• Michael Warren, 63, of Shelton, in custody
• Michael Slocumb, 44, of Concho, Arizona, in custody in Arizona
• Isaac Cervantes, 24, of Phoenix, in custody in Arizona
• Sara Thompson, 37, of Bonney Lake, in custody
• Shawn Ellis, 31, of Renton, in custody
• Eric Smith, 52, incarcerated in Washington state prison
• Joseph Hempel, 45, of Burien, in custody
• Stephanie Yepez, 42, being sought by law enforcement
• Daniel Hammond, 41, of Puyallup, in custody
• Philip Boorkman, 40, of Seattle, in custody
• C’La Morales, 36, of Pierce County, in custody
• Ronnie Griffin, 64, of Tacoma, in custody
• Anna Sarnes, 37, of Quilcene, in custody
• Anthony Escoto, 51, of Tukwila, in custody
• William Tripp, 34, being sought by law enforcement
• Dana Hanson, 57, of Burbank, in custody
• Justin Hanson, 48, of Burbank, in custody
“This operation was the culmination of a year and a half of great investigative work,” said Richard A. Collodi, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office, in a prepared statement. “We were able to arrest over 20 subjects, some of whom are alleged to have operated this drug organization from prison, and also prevented vast quantities of dangerous drugs from being sold on our streets. I’m so proud of how the FBI, along with our federal, state, and local partners worked together to keep our community safe.”
This investigation was led by the FBI with critical investigative teamwork from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Washington State Department of Corrections and significant local assistance from the Tacoma Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, and the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force, led by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. Throughout the investigation the following agencies assisted the primary investigators: Washington State Patrol, Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine, Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Lakewood Police Department, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).
Agents and officers from FBI Phoenix, DEA Phoenix Field Division, the U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the Puyallup Tribal Police, and the Vancouver, Pasco, Kennewick, Puyallup, Steilacoom, and Burien police departments, the Clark, Cowlitz, Jefferson, King, and Benton County sheriff’s offices all assisted with arrests and search warrants on March 22.
“This operation is an example of the difference we can make when we collaborate to keep illegal guns and drugs from hitting our streets,” said Chief Avery Moore, of the Tacoma Police Department, in a prepared statement. “Guns and drugs have taken the lives of our loved ones, friends, neighbors and community members. The contraband confiscated in this effort will not be allowed to harm anyone. The Tacoma Police Department, along with our law enforcement partners will not stop in the pursuit to bring those who set out to harm and exploit our communities to justice.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Max Shiner and Zach Dillon.
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