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Leader of Washington state drug ring sentenced to prison

SEATTLE - The leader of a drug trafficking organization who arranged for methamphetamine and cocaine to be brought from Mexico for distribution in Washington state was sentenced to 12 years and six months in federal prison, following an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Martin Oseguera-Chavez, 51, of Yelm, Wash., pleaded guilty in May 2010 to federal charges of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.  He was among more than 20 people who were arrested by HSI and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in June 2009, following a 14-month investigation that resulted in the seizure of drugs, numerous vehicles and firearms.

According to court documents, investigators identified Martin Oseguera-Chavez as the leader of the Oseguera-Chavez Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO).  The investigation into his activities was dubbed "Operation Arctic Chill" because he and other co-conspirators were distributing significant quantities of highly pure methamphetamine known as "ice" in parts of western Washington.

In his plea agreement, Oseguera-Chavez admitted he distributed cocaine and methamphetamine that was transported from Mexico through California and on to Washington state.  He would often travel to California to pick up the drugs or arrange for others to go on his behalf.  The drugs were often transported in hidden compartments of the various vehicles used by the DTO.

"The defendant in this case engaged in large-scale criminal activity and was responsible for bringing significant quantities of illicit and dangerous drugs into our communities, putting the safety and well-being of the American public at risk," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Seattle.  "His lengthy incarceration for this activity is appropriate"

In the sentencing memo, prosecutors wrote, "Oseguera-Chavez did not merely pass information from one participant to another, he directed and organized the entire transaction, telling each participant where to go, when the other participant could be expected, and what quantity of drugs to deliver or receive."

In all, 26 members of the conspiracy were arrested in late June 2009.  All have now pleaded guilty to a variety of drug distribution, gun or money laundering crimes.

"Today's sentencing reflects the cooperation between the DEA and its fellow law enforcement counterparts, pulling resources together to protect and serve our communities here in Washington and throughout the nation," said Paul Schmidt, acting special agent in charge of the DEA in Seattle.

ICE and DEA were assisted in this investigation by several Washington law enforcement agencies including the Auburn Police Department, Bonney Lake Police Department, Centralia Police Department, Federal Way Police Department, Gray's Harbor Task Force, Pierce County Sheriff's Office, Puyallup Police Department, South Snohomish Drug Task Force, Tacoma Police Department, Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team, Washington Department of Corrections, and Washington State Patrol.