Steilacoom trafficker, 26 more indicted in drug conspiracy tied to cartels, Aryan gang

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Federal and local law enforcement announced the conclusion of a months-long investigation into an international drug trafficking conspiracy on Monday with the indictments of 27 men allegedly tied to Pierce County, white supremacist prison gangs and Mexican cartels.

The lead defendant and alleged principal organizer, Jesse James Bailey, 39, was based in Steilacoom and is suspected of distributing fentanyl, methamphetamine and other drugs throughout Pierce County, according to federal law enforcement. Bailey and others allegedly established ties to the Sinaloa Cartel and Aryan Family prison gang while incarcerated in Washington. Investigators also uncovered parts of the operation in Arizona and Alaska.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Nick Brown told reporters at a news conference that Bailey had the strongest ties to the cartel and was an influential leader in the Aryan Family gang. Brown said his staff, led by two assistant U.S. attorneys, focused on prosecuting higher-level drug distributors. So far 24 of the 27 defendants indicted by a grand jury have been arrested in Washington and Arizona.

The other defendants in custody are: Candice Bailey, 41, Steilacoom; Thomas Carver, 59, Auburn; Bryson Gill, 30, Buckeye, Arizona; Yehoshua Kilp, 37, incarcerated in Washington; Gustavo Castellanos-Tapia, 34, Burien; Ronald McComb, 58, Ridgefield, Keagen Larsen, 28, incarcerated in King County; Sean Moinette, 54, Spanaway; Michael Warren, 63, Shelton; Michael Slocumb, 44, Concho, Arizona; Isaac Cervantes, 24, Phoenix; Sara Thompson, 37, Bonney Lake; Shawn Ellis, 31, Renton; Eric Smith, 52, incarcerated in Washington; Joseph Hempel, 45, Burien; Daniel Hammond, 41, Puyallup; Philip Boorkman, 40, Seattle; C’La Morales, 36, Pierce County; Ronnie Griffin, 64, Tacoma; Anna Sarnes, 37, Quilcene; Anthony Escoto, 51, Tukwila; Dana Hanson, 57, Burbank; Justin Hanson, 48, Burbank.

Brown said many of the defendants would appear in federal court throughout the day Monday. They face a range of charges from conspiracy to distribute drugs, drug possession with intent to distribute. It remained unclear what weapons charges prosecutors could bring against the defendants, many of whom were barred from owning guns due to previous convictions.

William Tripp, 34; Stephanie Yepez, 42; and 30-year-old Gregory Beers of Edgewood were still wanted by authorities on Monday morning.

FBI agents led the investigation involving wiretaps, confidential informants and numerous drug and firearm seizures during the past year-and-a-half, according to Brown. The DEA, Homeland Security Investigations, Tacoma Police Department and state Department of Corrections also partnered on the case, in addition to other state and local law enforcement.

Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle DEA office Jacob Galvin said authorities seized enough fentanyl to kill the combined populations of Seattle and Tacoma, plus 500,000 more people.

“If it had not been for this partnership, this organization would not have been dismantled,” said Seattle Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer.

The FBI led a drug trafficking investigation involving wiretaps, confidential informants and numerous drug and firearm seizures in Washington state and Arizona during the past year-and-a-half.
The FBI led a drug trafficking investigation involving wiretaps, confidential informants and numerous drug and firearm seizures in Washington state and Arizona during the past year-and-a-half.

Those seizures were on top of the drug stashes and 48 guns authorities secretly confiscated using information from court-authorized wiretaps during the investigation, according to Brown. The seized drugs included 830,000 fentanyl pills and 223 pounds of meth.

After the drugs went missing, the suspects speculated rivals stole them and even reported some seizures as thefts to law enforcement, Brown said. Some defendants moved to Arizona during the investigation believing it was safer.

Brown said the investigation into where the weapons came from and whether they were used in crimes remains ongoing. He did not specify how investigators believe the American distributors were using the money and said he did not know whether the funds were used to further white supremacist ideology.

“The cartels are engaged in daily violence,” Brown said about the seized weapons. When asked where the trafficked narcotics were headed, Brown said, “The drugs are going everywhere.”

Special Agent in Charge at the Seattle FBI office Richard Collodi said the investigation began with a probe of white supremacist prison gangs in Washington that then became focused on illicit drug suppliers and distributors.

“On the surface, we see the makings of a movie,” Collodi said. “What we don’t see, but I would like to emphasize, is the patience by law enforcement.”

“Identifying the full scope of a conspiracy can take years,” added Collodi.

Hammer noted that although many of the drugs that reached Washington came through California, fentanyl is cheaper to get ahold of in the Pacific Northwest.

“We are literally being inundated in this region,” Hammer said.

Tacoma Police Chief Avery Moore thanked the federal and state law enforcement who worked with his officers and said he was pleased Tacoma was safer without the seized guns and drugs on the streets. He pledged that the work would continue.

“It’s not a one-time partnership,” Moore said. “We needed this.”