A DEA undercover investigation led to the arrest and indictment of three Whatcom County men Tuesday, Feb. 23, and the seizure of more than 5,000 fentanyl pills, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.
Jamie Hernandez Hernandez, 21 of Ferndale; Gorge Ortiz, 23 of Lynden; and Stanley Stubbs, 51 of Bellingham, were each arrested and indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, according to the release. Hernandez and Ortiz were each charged with three additional counts of fentanyl distribution, while Stubbs is charged with possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute and unlawful possession of a firearm.
All three were scheduled to make their first appearance Tuesday or Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
"This undercover investigation revealed these defendants were responsible for the distribution of thousands of pills tainted with potentially deadly fentanyl," U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in the release. "A recent analysis by the King County Medical Examiner's Office showed a significant drop in overdose deaths following large law enforcement seizures in federal drug cases.
"I am pleased our federal partners worked closely with Whatcom County law enforcement and other local authorities to reduce the flow of dangerous pills into our communities."
Last week, the Washington State Department of Health released data showing that Whatcom County saw eight overdose deaths related to fentanyl during the first half of 2020 after the county had three in all of 2019.
"Saving lives is a priority of the Drug Enforcement Administration," DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino said in the release. "Today's enforcement action illustrates the commitment and sense of urgency the men and women of DEA routinely demonstrate as they carry out their mission of enforcing the federal narcotic laws of the United States.
"We must continue to focus our valuable resources and leverage our much needed and well established partnerships with the United States Attorney's Office and local, state, county and federal law enforcement agencies to stem the tide of the systemic and widespread abuse of opioids in our communities."
Law enforcement executed eight search warrants on Tuesday, according to the release, which led to the seizure of more than 5,000 fentanyl pills.
Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized "thousands" of fentanyl pills and "pound quantities" of heroin and methamphetamine, the release stated.
Due to the amount of fentanyl, Hernandez, Ortiz and Stubbs all face a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence if convicted, according to the release.
The investigation was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces operation, according to the release, and was conducted by the DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Bellingham Resident Office, which is comprised of DEA, the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office, Washington State Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S Customs and Border Protection. Whatcom County SWAT, Washington State Patrol SWAT, Homeland Security Special Response Team, Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit, Ferndale and Lynden Police Departments assisted with arrests and the execution of the search warrants Tuesday.
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