Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 16, 2022
Leader of multi-state drug trafficking conspiracy pleads guilty to drug trafficking, firearms possession, and money laundering charges
Distributed methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin
Seattle – The Arlington, Washington based leader of a prolific and violent drug trafficking ring pleaded guilty this week to federal drug, gun, and money laundering crimes, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Cesar Valdez-Sanudo, 36, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and carrying a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking crime. Valdez-Sanudo faces a mandatory minimum ten years in prison and up to life in prison when sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on October 4, 2022.
The drug ring was indicted in December 2020, following a lengthy wire-tap investigation. Law enforcement seized large amounts of drugs during the investigation including a 49-pound load of methamphetamine that was coming to Washington State from California. All told, law enforcement seized approximately 93 pounds of methamphetamine, 15 pounds of heroin, 35,000 suspected fentanyl pills, 24 firearms, approximately $525,000, and a bank account valued at $100,000.
Valdez-Sanudo was the leader of the ring. In messages to his coconspirators, he discussed violence against members of the ring suspected of stealing drug loads. When he was arrested at the Snoqualmie Casino, Valdez-Sanudo had three firearms in his vehicle, one with a homemade silencer. Valdez-Sanudo had told others he planned to confront a member of the ring who owed a debt for drugs.
When law enforcement searched Valdez-Sanudo’s Arlington property, they seized more than 27 kilos of meth, nearly 6 kilos of heroin, and nearly 2 kilos of fentanyl pills, much of it buried underground. On the property, there were 8 firearms.
Digging up drugs
Law enforcement seized cash, checks, and the contents of bank accounts as proceeds of the drug crime. Valdez-Sanudo schemed to launder funds through casinos and through the purchase of property and vehicles. Conspirators sought to avoid banking transaction reporting requirements by making deposits in amounts below the $10,000 threshold.
This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Tacoma Residence Office in partnership with Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (TNET), Kent Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, SeaTac Police Department, Tacoma Police Department, Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force (SRDTF), the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Amy Jaquette and C. Andrew Colasurdo.
Drugs fund buried in storage case