100,000 fentanyl pills and meth seized in huge Eastern WA bust in Tri-Cities
100,000 fentanyl pills and meth seized in huge Eastern WA bust in Tri-Cities

Source: Google News

Four accused Tri-Cities drug traffickers were arrested this week in one of the largest drug busts in Eastern Washington history.

FBI agents and local police officers seized more than 100,000 fentanyl-laced pills and more than 50 pounds of methamphetamine during a series of searches in the Tri-Cities, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

They also found more than 20 firearms, cocaine and over $15,000 in cash, along with several money counters.

While many of the fentanyl pills found this week came in the classic blue form, there were a number of pink and rainbow-colored pills, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Illegal narcotics, and fentanyl in particular, have become a scourge across the United States,” Vanessa Waldref, U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington, said in a news release Thursday. “I’m grateful to the FBI and our critical Safe Streets Task Force partners for working together to combat this dangerous poison.”

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Four people are facing charges in connection with the sweep.

Angel Ramon Barajas-Zarate was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of attempted possession with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of meth.

Hector Sanchez-Mendez is charged with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine.

Jeremy Obediha Hendricks and Nichole Diane Holland are charged with possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.

It’s unclear in initial court documents whether the four were working together or where all the searches were conducted.

Passersby alerted the Herald on Wednesday to a heavy police and FBI presence at a Wright Avenue home in Richland.

The news release said the FBI Safe Streets Task Force was joined by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service as part of the ongoing investigation. These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephanie Van Marter and Caitlin Baunsgard.

They were helped by the Metro Drug Task Force, the Benton and Franklin county sheriff’s offices and the Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland police departments, as well as the Washington State Department of Corrections.

Rainbow fentanyl

Fentanyl has become one of the most deadly illegal drugs in Benton County in recent years, according to coroner statistics.

Last year, fentanyl was responsible for 19 deaths, more than twice as many as methamphetamine.

The synthetic opioid is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC reported that 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses and two-thirds of those have been linked to synthetic opioids, including fentanyl.

The rainbow pills have been a recent development. Drug Enforcement Administration agents first noticed the brightly-colored pills being sold in 26 states in August.

Law enforcement officials have been concerned that the pills are aimed at children, though harm reduction experts and toxicologists are skeptical of that.

Police first found the rainbow pills in the Tri-Cities in October as part of a drug bust that netted 15,000 fentanyl pills.