SPOKANE – Vanessa R. Waldref, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced Monday that federal state, local and tribal law enforcement seized more that 100 pounds of illegal controlled substances and multiple firearms in rural Okanogan County near Oroville, Washington.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Drug Enforcement (BIA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force and other federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement executed a series of federal search warrants at a number of residential locations near Oroville on April 19, 2023 as part of an investigation into the trafficking of multiple-pound quantities of dangerous controlled substances, including fentanyl-laced pills, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine, according to Waldref.“In total, the BIA, DEA and their law enforcement partners seized approximately 161,000 fentanyl-laced pills (to include Mexi-blues and rainbow-colored pills), approximately 80 pounds of methamphetamine, approximately six pounds of heroin and more than two pounds of cocaine,” said Waldref in the announcement. “The BIA, DEA and their partners also seized approximately 12 firearms. A significant portion of the drugs seized were believed to be destined for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, as well as for other Native American communities and surrounding areas in Washington and Montana.”
According to court documents, several individuals have been charged in connection with the investigation. On April 18, 2023, Erubey Arciga Medrano, Luis Esquivel-Balonos, Chad Winston Vanatta, Emily Wisdom and Jeremy Wright were indicted by a federal grand jury for the Eastern District of Washington for Conspiracy to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Actual (Pure) Methamphetamine and 400 Grams or More of Fentanyl, as well as other related drug trafficking charges.
U.S. Attorney Waldref commended the joint efforts of law enforcement for removing such a large quantity of illegal drugs from the community.
“Illegal drugs, and fentanyl in particular, have become a scourge across the United States, including in Indian country. I’m grateful to the BIA, DEA and our critical Federal, State, and Tribal partners for working together to combat this dangerous poison. Without their combined efforts, approximately 161,000 deadly fentanyl-laced pills and more than 80 pounds of methamphetamine would not have been removed from communities in and around Indian country. As a result, our neighborhoods and communities in Eastern Washington and elsewhere are safer and stronger,” said Waldref.
“The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Division of Drug Enforcement – working hand in hand with the DEA, Tribes and our law enforcement partners – dealt a real blow to drug trafficking organizations operating in and through Indian country,” said Associate Director Jason Thompson from the BIA. “Investigative efforts resulted in significant seizures of narcotics across multiple jurisdictions. As a result of all of the agencies involved, Indian country is safer today than yesterday.”
“Our combined efforts at the State, Local, Tribal and Federal levels removed large amounts of illicit narcotics and firearms,” said Jacob D. Galvan, Acting Special Agent in Charge, DEA Seattle. “The partnerships seen here are saving lives and working to ensure our communities are safe from dangerous drugs and deadly weapons.”
This ongoing case is being investigated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Drug Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Administration and the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force. The investigation team is being assisted by the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Okanogan County Sheriff, Colville Tribal Police Department, and the Kalispel Tribal Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Richard R. Barker.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.