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Major Snohomish Co. bust snags leaders of ring linked to Mexican drug cartel

Photo credit: Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)

EVERETT, Wash. - Five suspected drug traffickers linked to a Mexican cartel were arrested in Snohomish County following a lengthy investigation, officials said Monday.

Investigators also seized 11 cars, over $88,000 in cash, 13 pounds of heroin, 14 pounds of methamphetamine, 3 pounds of cocaine, approximately 4,000 fentanyl-laced pills, three handguns and an AR-15 assault rifle.

The arrests were made in November but weren't disclosed until now.

Two of those arrested, Juan Alberto Loya-Ponce, 29, and Misael Alberto Mendivil-Vega, 28, both from Mexico, are suspected of being ringleaders of the local drug trafficking operation. Three others suspected of being drug couriers were also arrested. They were identified as Julio Cesar Loya-Soto, Roberto Montano-Armenta, and Ana Duran.

The busts were made by the the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force. The investigation was part of a larger, multi-state operation involving the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration that led to 43 other arrests and seizures of large quantities of drugs and firearms in other areas of the country.

Undercover detectives infiltrated the operation in early 2018 and learned how the suspects tried to avoid law enforcement detection by rotating drug runners in and out of the area and switching cars and cell phones.

Law enforcement waited until November 2018 when both Loya-Ponce and Mendivil-Vega were both in Washington to end the investigation with their arrests. They also served several search warrants, including one at a suspected drug stash house in the 6500 block of 208th Street SW in Lynnwood.

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