More than 100 federal and local law enforcement agents fanned out across the Puget Sound Region and Northern California today to arrest more than 20 defendants implicated in a significant narcotics trafficking ring, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.
Two of the men arrested today are from Renton, including 38-year-old Ruchell Gilbert and 42-year-old Anthony F. Colbert.
Eighteen of the defendants have been indicted by the grand jury for distributing thousands of oxycodone pills in the Seattle area. An additional six defendants were arrested for their role in the drug distribution scheme. The arrests are the culmination of a two year investigation by the Seattle Safe Streets Task Force, operated by the FBI and Seattle Police Department. The defendants will make their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 28.
“Prescription drug abuse is a growing threat in our community, with terrible consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “This drug ring was feeding addiction with thousands of pills trafficked from California. They lined their pockets by destroying the lives and families of so many in our community.”
According to the criminal complaints and indictment, members of the ring would frequently travel to Northern California to pick-up 2,000 to 5,000 percocet (oxycodone) pills per trip. The ring, led by Herman J. Roche, 43, of Kent, Washington would then sell the pills throughout the Puget Sound region. The investigation into the organized criminal group involved confidential informants as well as court authorized wiretaps of three phones belonging to Roche. Agents in California arrested defendants who were the source of supply for the drugs.
“Drugs tear at the inner fabric of our community in countless ways,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Laura M. Laughlin. “They bring violence to our streets. They waste young lives and wreak havoc on families. They drain the resources of our health care systems. This joint investigation with the Seattle Police Department focused not only on taking harmful drugs off the streets, but on dismantling the organization behind them. The FBI is committed to preventing criminal enterprises from continuing to damage our community.”
In addition to Roche those indicted for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances include:
- ROBERT M. KEARNEY JR., 40, of Stockton, California
- SHAUNTE M. ANTHONY, 34, of Oakland, California
- RUCHELL GILBERT, 38, of Renton, Washington
- BRANDY N. BUTLER, 34, of Seattle, Washington
- NICKOLE E. MARTIN, 25, of Kent, Washington
- JASON R. LEE, 26, of Seattle, Washington
- RAHMAN JOHNSON, 35, of Kent, Washington
- SAXTON F. MASON, 35, of Seattle, Washington
- ERNEST J. ELLISON, 47, of Seattle, Washington
- DEMONTA M. HENRY, 24, of Kent, Washington
- VINCENT L. FIELDS, 44, of Tacoma, Washington
- COREY A. BROWN, 39, of Seattle, Washington
- CLARENCE D. WILLIAMS, 32, of Seattle, Washington
- JOSEPH D. ROCHE, 46, of Seattle, Washington
- THOMAS D. LEE, 45, of Seattle, Washington
- DAVID L. POTTS, 48, of Spanaway, Washington
- CURIUM L. HURLEY, 29, of Tukwila, Washington
The defendants charged by complaint include:
- DANIEL M.YOHANNES, 26, of Seattle, Washington
- BRIAN M. DAVIS, 33, of Seattle, Washington
- FREDERICK L. NEWMAN Jr., 39, of Tukwila, Washington
- ANTHONY F. COLBERT, 42, Renton, Washington
Additional defendants arrested include:
- NEGASH MULU WOLDESELASE, 25, of Seattle, Washington
- ALVIN ROCHELL MITCHELL, 24, of Seattle, Washington
“This joint SPD-FBI investigation and the federal prosecution of these hard core violent career criminals will impact our Seattle neighborhoods in a positive way by making our streets a safer place for everyone,” said Seattle Police Chief John Diaz.
The charges contained in the indictment and complaints are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Conspiracy to distribute controlled substances is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.
The case is being investigated by the Seattle Safe Streets Task Force containing agents and officers from the FBI and Seattle Police Department. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), along with officers from the Auburn Police Department, Des Moines Police Department, Federal Way Police Department, Kent Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office, Kirkland Police Department, Mountlake Terrace Police Department, Port of Seattle Police Department, Renton Police Department and Tukwila Police Department partnered with the task force on today’s arrests.
*Editor's Note: Information provided by U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.