Investigators say the 20 people now in custody are part of a drug ring that brought cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin from the San Francisco Bay Area into Seattle. The drugs were then distributed in western Washington or sent to Canada, according to the US Attorney's Office.
After an extensive investigation that involved wire taps of thousands of drug-related conversations, on Wednesday DEA agents and police executed search warrants on 18 residences, businesses and vehicles.
During those raids, they found 24 pounds of meth, powder cocaine and crack cocaine, along with $35,000 in cash.
"Today, over 24 pounds of methamphetamine was seized from one vehicle in this investigation, which has an estimated street value of over $1 million," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. "This investigation illustrates the defendants' ill-will and disregard for our community."
Over the course of the entire investigation, law enforcement officers seized more than $700,000 in cash, 11 kilos of cocaine, 40 pounds of meth and four firearms.
Investigators believe 38-year-old Jose Rodriguez-Rivera of Lynnwood is the ringleader of the group. Police searched his home, as well his cars -- a 2007 Pontiac G5, 2003 Hummer H2 and 2006 BMW 330 -- during the raid.
Court documents show that Rodriguez-Rivera has been under investigation since October, 2008.
"Organizations that think we cannot track their crimes across borders are wrong. We will use all of our tools to shut down their operations and seize their profits," said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. "I commend the tremendous collaboration by federal, state and local law enforcement in disrupting this drug ring."
The defendants were arrested in Lynnwood, Federal Way, Sedro-Woolley, Everett, Seattle, Mountlake Terrace, Kent, Kirkland, Des Moines and Edmonds.
They've been charged with various federal crimes, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and/or conspiracy to engage in money laundering.