Spokane, WA – Released by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington
Vanessa R. Waldref, announced today that 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 in rural Okanogan County, near Oroville, Washington, seizing more than 100 pounds of illegal controlled substances and multiple firearms.
The drugs were seized 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. 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 6 pounds of heroin, and more than 2 pounds of cocaine. 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. U.S. Attorney Waldref stated, “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.”
“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,” stated 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.