PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — US Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce charges against 41 people in a major drug bust.
“Today, we announce charges against 41 defendants for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine manufactured in Mexico throughout the greater Portland area and for laundering the financial proceeds,” Williams said.
Two men are accused of running the drug trafficking organization since November of 2018.
An estimated $15-million worth of meth and heroin entered the Portland area, according to Williams. He said the local cell of traffickers distributed 600,000 individual user doses and netted more than $1 million in under a year.
Williams said federal search warrants were executed Wednesday at 13 locations throughout the metro area.
Twenty people were arrested on charges stemming from the investigation, according to Williams. Ten other suspects were already in custody.
Authorities seized 22 pounds of meth, 4 ounces of heroin, 11 ounces of cocaine, $40,000 cash and 7 guns. Williams said a total of 51 guns have been seized since the start of the investigation.
“This highly-successful operation marks one of the largest take-downs of a drug trafficking organization in the history of the District of Oregon,” Williams said. He added that the suspects may face life in prison if they’re convicted.
The two men accused of starting and leading the drug organization are still in Mexico. Williams said local law enforcement is working with international partners to bring additional suspects to justice.
‘It didn’t seem like a real store’
One of the locations raided on Wednesday was a Mexican market in Southeast Portland called Gonzalez Bros.
The drug network is accused of using the Gonzalez Bros storefront to launder drug money. Some customers at the market told KOIN 6 News they’ve seen large stacks of cash laying out.
“Everything inside the store was old; the inventory was dusty, broken down. It didn’t seem like a real store, something was more in the store than the eye could see,” said Nicole King, who lives nearby.
The US Attorney’s Office said low-denomination wire transfers were made from the market to avoid triggering a suspicious activity report required by the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
“I feel like they were trying to do what anybody else was trying to do — trying to survive but the way they did it was illegal and it was wrong,” King said.
The Gresham Police Department had been investigating the organization for months, according to Williams.
Gresham Police Chief Robin Sells said the case started after confidential informants came forward with information.
“The impact of this investigation and subsequent arrest will be felt not only in Multnomah County but throughout the state,” Sells said.