Coordinated Law Enforcement Operations Lead to Takedown of Portland-Area Transnational Drug Trafficking Cells

PORTLAND, Ore.—In August and October 2021, coordinated law enforcement operations targeting two Portland-area transnational drug trafficking cells led to the arrests of the cells’ leaders and more than a dozen associates, and the seizure of approximately 200,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills suspected to contain fentanyl, two pounds of fentanyl powder, 40 pounds of methamphetamine, 45 pounds of heroin, 13 pounds of cocaine, nine firearms, and more than $1.4 million cash in drug proceeds.

“At a time when communities across the country continue to suffer the terrible effects of the opioid addiction crisis, there are some individuals seeking to profit off the pain and anguish of others. The drug trafficking cells targeted by this investigation are among the worst we’ve seen operating in Oregon. Counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl pose a severe risk of fatal overdose unmatched by any other type of widely available street drug,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug. “I applaud the many law enforcement agencies who played a role in bringing the leaders and associates of these two cells to justice. Our communities are safer because of your efforts.”

“This investigation resulted in arrests of individuals with ties to Mexico and significant seizures of drugs, including dangerous counterfeit tablets containing fentanyl, guns, and U.S. currency. The DEA worked with several law enforcement partners throughout Oregon, including the Tualatin Police Department, Oregon City Police Department, Tigard Police Department, and Portland Police Bureau. The dismantling of this international drug trafficking organization is an example of how effective law enforcement investigations can be when we work together to make our communities safer,” said Cam Strahm, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Oregon.

The two takedown operations, led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), came after a nearly 12-month investigation and the federal indictments of the two cell leaders and more than a dozen key associates. Early in the investigation, authorities believed they were investigating a single drug trafficking cell. As the investigation continued, federal agents discovered that two men—Jesus Miramontes-Castaneda, 31, of Los Angeles, California, and Horacio Luna-Perez, 39, of Hillsboro, Oregon—operated separate drug trafficking cells loosely-affiliated with one another by shared sources of supply and distribution networks.

Both cells acquired large quantities of oxycodone, heroin, methamphetamine, and other illegal drugs from sources of supply in California and elsewhere and used vehicles to transport the bulk narcotics to Oregon. Once in Oregon, the drugs were taken to stash houses where they were processed and prepared for sale. A large network of local drug dealers would then distribute user quantities of each drug. The cells routinely changed stash locations and rotated vehicles and phones to avoid detection by law enforcement.

On August 11, 2021, a federal grand jury in Portland returned a four-count indictment charging Miramontes-Castaneda and five associates with conspiring with one another to traffic large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine from California for distribution in the Portland and Salem, Oregon metropolitan areas. Miramontes-Castaneda’s cell distributed narcotics in Salem and the greater Portland area. Miramontes-Castaneda and several of his associates were arrested during the first takedown operation on August 12, 2021.

On September 14, Luna-Perez and nine associates were charged in a four-count indictment with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine. Similar to Miramontes-Castaneda, Luna-Perez’s cell imported large quantities of counterfeit oxycodone, heroin, and methamphetamine from California for distribution in and around Portland and in Eastern Washington. Luna-Perez’s cell also had ties to drug traffickers in Colorado and California. On October 7, 2021, the second takedown operation targeted Luna-Perez’s cell. Luna-Perez and several associates were arrested during the operation.

Luna-Perez’s brother and trafficking associate—Ricardo Luna-Perez, 41—made his first appearance in the District of Oregon today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Portland after his October 26, 2021 arrest in Vancouver, Washington. He was ordered detained pending a ten-day jury trial scheduled to begin on December 7, 2021. Ricardo Luna-Perez is the eighteenth defendant in the Miramontes-Castaneda and Luna-Perez trafficking cells to appear in federal court and be ordered detained pending a jury trial.

Conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, methamphetamine, or fentanyl of these quantities is punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years.

Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the DEA with assistance from Oregon State Police, Portland Police Bureau, Tigard Police Department, the Clackamas County Interagency Task Force (CCITF) including member agencies the Canby Police Department, Oregon City Police Department, and Tualatin Police Department; and Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE). It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations.

An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Fentanyl and heroin are leading causes of overdose deaths in the U.S. If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, please call the Lines for Life substance abuse helpline at 1-800-923-4357 or visit www.linesforlife.org. Phone support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also text “RecoveryNow” to 839863 between 8am and 11pm Pacific Time daily.

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