16 charged, 10 held in local meth case

16 charged, 10 held in local meth case
SEATTLE (AP) - Sixteen people have been indicted in U.S. District Court in Seattle on methamphetamine, cocaine and money-laundering conspiracy charges, and 10 had been arrested as of Wednesday afternoon.

In a grand jury indictment issued Oct. 15 and unsealed Wednesday following the initial arrests, 10 people are charged with conspiracy to distribute meth and cocaine and the other six are charged with that offense and as with money-laundering conspiracy, all in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Distribution conspiracy carries a minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $4 million fine.

Six defendants remain at large. The others, nine men and a woman, pleaded not guilty in brief court appearances and were returned to federal custody Wednesday. At least two face immigration detainers and another was anticipating one, meaning they could be deported once their cases are resolved, U.S. Magistrate John L. Weinberg was told.

The Herald of Everett reported that federal drug agents and local police officers surrounded a home Wednesday morning in Monroe. Jodie Underwood, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, would not discuss the raid.

Details on the case were sparse. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, Emily Langlie, said the investigation was continuing and neither she nor anyone in DEA would comment.

The indictment did not give any quantities of drugs, cash, weapons or other goods and property, stating only that the conspiracy charges involved more than a pound each of meth and cocaine and more than $10,000, a threshold level for certain charges and penalties.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of a 2008 Chevrolet Silverado registered to Angelica Galicia in Sultan, about 30 miles northeast of Seattle, and whatever the court finds to be the proceeds of or property involved in drug and money-laundering conspiracies.

Galicia was not named as a defendant, nor was there any indication in court filings whether there were any family ties among her and the 16 who were indicted.

Charged with both offenses are Arturo J. Barajas Garcia, Cesar Barajas Padilla, Daniel Barajas, Gudelio J. Orozco Gomez, Demetrio Saldana Robles and Juan Carlos Saldana Robles.

Charged solely with conspiracy to distribute are Rosendo Barragan Barragan, Jorge Avila Ochoa, Benustiano Carranza Lua, Uriel Baldovinos Cruzaley, Emmanuel Valdovinos Cruzaley, Jesus Medina Contreras, Candido Hernandez, Francisco Villanueva Vega, Jesenia Vazquez and Trent T. Jesmer.

Still at large as of Wednesday afternoon are Garcia, Padilla, Barajas, Barragan, Contreras and Jesmer.

Erka Mejia, sister-in-law of Vega, said outside the courtroom he was 36, had lived in Monroe with his girlfriend for about 12 years and had two children. He was arrested at his workplace, she added.

She said he had become more distant from her and her husband, Juan Villanueva, in recent times and last saw them on Saturday.

"He didn't visit us so we just talked to him by telephone," Mejia said. "We told him that he needed to get away from those bad people." She did not elaborate.

Relatives of another defendant, whom they would not identify, declined comment.