A coordinated, multi-agency law enforcement operation was conducted Wednesday to dismantle a vast international drug trafficking organization that conspired to distribute methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine manufactured in Mexico throughout the Portland Metropolitan Area, announced Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
Federal search warrants were executed at 13 locations throughout the Portland area. Investigators seized 22 pounds of methamphetamine, four ounces of heroin, 11 ounces of cocaine and seven firearms and arrested 20 defendants. These defendants join 10 others who are already in custody on related state charges.
A 60-count indictment unsealed Wednesday, charges 41 people for their roles in the drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy.
“While communities across our state and country are reeling from the opioid and addiction crisis, there are criminal organizations whose sole purpose is to profit off addiction. At its peak, this network was bringing more than 130 pounds of methamphetamine and heroin into the Portland area every week—nearly 600,000 individual user doses,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “This country and communities in Oregon are drowning in deadly substance abuse. Vulnerable people addicted to drugs of all kinds are the targets of greedy criminals pushing their deadly poison. We will continue to work with our federal, state, local and tribal partners to disrupt these criminal organizations.”
“We are very proud of the hard work and commitment by our detectives, as well as the cooperation from our law enforcement partners. The ability to collaborate with other departments was instrumental in the resolution of this case,” said Robin Sells, Chief of Police of the Gresham Police Department. “As a result of the hard work between these agencies, arrests were made and literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in narcotics are off the streets.”
“I am extremely proud of all of the law enforcement officers involved in this operation,” said Brad Bench, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Seattle. “Their dedication to law enforcement, and the strength of our partnerships, has resulted in the disruption of a complex drug organization, the removal of large quantities of narcotics from our community and may have saved countless lives.”
The indictment alleges that beginning in November 2018, two men, Samuel Diaz and Faustino Monroy, organized, led, and ran an organization responsible for trafficking hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine and heroin, with an estimated wholesale value of $15 million, into the Portland area for resale.
Diaz and Monroy, who both remain at large in Mexico, worked closely with two Portland-based associates: Edgar Omar Quiroz Rodriguez and Gerson Fernando Martinez-Cruz. Quiroz and Martinez-Cruz ran a Portland distribution cell which, at its peak, was responsible for distributing as much as 77 pounds of methamphetamine and 55 pounds of heroin every week in and around Portland.
The organization’s numerous sources of supply would import large quantities of illegal drugs that were taken to stash houses throughout the metro area where they were processed and prepared for sale. A large network of local drug dealers would the distribute user quantities of each drug. The organization would routinely change stash locations, rotate vehicles and phones, and pay individual couriers to take time off to avoid detection by law enforcement.
Members of the organization obtained rifles and handguns in the U.S. and attempted to transport them to associates in Mexico to strengthen and protect the organization and its activities. Prior to today’s takedown, investigators had seized 44 firearms including assault rifles, shotguns and handguns.
Additionally, the organization used a Southeast Portland mini market called Tienda Mexicana Gonzalez Inc., also known as the Gonzalez Bros. Market, to launder their proceeds via international electronic money wires. These wires were deliberately structured using low-denomination transfers to avoid triggering a suspicious activity report as required by U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
In total, the organization’s drug trafficking and money laundering efforts netted more than $1 million in less than one year.
This case was investigated by the Gresham Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, and the FBI. The Drug Enforcement Administration, Oregon State Police, Portland Police Bureau, and Multnomah, Clackamas, and Clark County Sheriff’s Offices participated in the takedown.
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This case was brought as part of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, the centerpiece of the department’s strategy for reducing the availability of drugs in the U.S. OCDETF was established in 1982 to mount a comprehensive attack on drug trafficking by disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Today, OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies in coordination with state and local law enforcement.