Two suspects who were apprehended in Burien with a commercial vehicle full of drugs have been charged with conspiracy to commit violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, according to court documents filed by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on Jan. 31, 2024.
As we previously reported, on Jan. 28, 2024, Burien Police/King County Sheriff’s Detectives intercepted a commercial vehicle and confiscated a load of drugs and contraband worth $1.46 million, including 37.4 pounds of Fentanyl powder, 3.02 pounds of Methamphetamine, 1.38 pounds of Heroin, $34,258 in cash and a gun that had its serial number removed.
The suspects – Isabel Villarreal-Zapien, 45, and Jose Ruben Mejia Ortiz, 29 – are accused of knowingly and unlawfully agreeing to possess with intent to manufacture or deliver Fentanyl, a controlled substance and narcotic drug.
Zapien is charged with:
- Conspiracy to Commit Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (possession with intent – fentanyl)
- Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (possession with intent – fentanyl) with an aggravating factor of a major drug (Uniform Controlled Substances Act) offense
- Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (possession with intent – meth) with an aggravating factor of a major drug (Uniform Controlled Substances Act) offense
Ortiz is charged with:
- Conspiracy to Commit Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (possession with intent – fentanyl) with an aggravating factor of a major drug (Uniform Controlled Substances Act) offense
- Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (fentanyl delivery)
- Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (meth delivery) with an aggravating factor of a major drug (Uniform Controlled Substances Act) offense
Both remain in jail on $200,000 bail, and their arraignment scheduled for Feb. 14, 2024 at the MRJC in Kent.
Prosecutors said that these defendants were involved in a major drug trafficking enterprise, where they transported hundreds of pounds of drugs in a semi-truck on regular trips from southern California to Washington State. In this instance alone, the truck had over 37 pounds of deadly Fentanyl, 3 pounds of Methamphetamine and approximately 1.6 pounds of Heroin. There was approximately $10,000 in cash in his truck – which is what Villarreal-Zapien said he was paid on these drug runs.
Charging documents also allege that Villarreal-Zapien and Ortiz unlawfully and feloniously delivered Fentanyl, a controlled substance and narcotic drug, to another person in King County, Washington, on or about Jan. 28, 2024.
Villarreal-Zapien and Ortiz have no prior known criminal history, but are accused of being major actors in the local drug trade, which has an enormous impact on public health, according to the documents.
The state has requested bail set in the amount of $200,000.00 for each defendant.
Here are more details from the charging docs:
- During the month of October, 2023, KCSO Detectives were conducting an investigation into suspected drug trafficker. During this investigation they followed him to a gas station in Tacoma where he met with another male.
- That male was identified as Jose Ruben Mejia Ortiz.
- Detectives watched as Mejia retrieved two bags from the suspect’s vehicle and placed them into his car. Mejia then drove across the street and met with another male driving a black Ford Explorer. Police watched as Mejia then delivered one of the two bags he received from the first suspect to the male in the Explorer.
- Police conducted a traffic stop on the Explorer and subsequently recovered 44.3 pounds of meth from the bag.
- On Oct. 27, 2023, the suspected drug trafficker was seen meeting with Villarreal in the same semi-truck, in Seattle. At that time, two large totes were transferred to a vehicle from Villarreal’s semi-truck.
- Detectives conducted a traffic stop on that vehicle and recovered 95 pounds of meth, which tested positive with the TruNarc detection device, and 41.8 pounds of fentanyl powder, which tested also positive with the same device.
- The trafficker suspect informed Detectives that there was a couple of pounds of meth still at his apartment in Renton. Mejia was then seen on digital surveillance pacing in front of the door to that apartment. He then appeared to type a code into the door and entered the apartment in a haste. He reappeared after a few minutes from inside the apartment and left in a hurry. When a search warrant was executed on that apartment no other narcotics or money were located. Detectives were informed that his boss in Mexico had the door code to his apartment. That suspect is currently still in King County Jail for the above referenced case.
- Detectives were able to track Villarreal as he drove his semi-truck on a regular basis from Southern California to Seattle.
- On Jan. 28, 2024, during surveillance of Villarreal, Detectives noticed that Villarreal had appeared to make a stop in Nisqually just off I-5. This is out of the norm for Villarreal and Detectives went south to intercept him. Police said this was not a regular/frequented stop location for Villarreal that they have seen over the last roughly 3 months of tracking him.
- A Detective arrived in the area and located Villarreal and his truck parked on the side of Nisqually Cutoff Rd SE just north of Martin Way E. Villarreal was parked on the east side of the roadway and shortly after police arrived in the area he moved his truck to the west side of the road. He was not at any rest-stop or any type of business, but was just pulled onto the shoulder of the road. He positioned his truck so that it was hidden from sight and appeared to have done this move in a purposeful manner. The Detective noticed as Villarreal exited the truck and began opening a compartment on the driver’s side of the truck and he was standing around and looking at all the vehicles that were driving by as if he was waiting for someone to arrive.
- A short time later, a gray Toyota Camry began driving by the area where the truck was parked. The Camry hit its brakes and appeared to want to stop by Villarreal’s truck but continued driving north past the truck. The Camry then U-turned and stopped in front of Villarreal’s semi. The driver stepped out of the Camry and walked back to Villarreal’s truck. About 30 seconds went by and the Camry driver, later identified as Jose Ruben Mejia Ortiz, 29, returned to the Camry and opened the trunk. He then exited the Camry and walked back towards the truck. There was a brief delay and the trunk closed and Mejia got into the Camry and drove away from Villarreal and merged onto 1-5 north. This is almost identical to what Detectives saw when Villarreal met with Camacho on Oct. 13, 2023 in Seattle. Also, through training and experience, this is very consistent with how police see narcotic traffickers conduct their business. They will short stay in an area and meet with another person for a short period of time before departing their separate ways sometimes lasting no more than a couple of minutes. It was apparent to the Detective that Mejia had received something from Villarreal and had put it in the trunk of his Camry.
- The Detective followed Mejia in the Camry from Nisqually as he drove northbound on I-5 to the Tacoma area. While in the area of S 84th St, Tacoma, Mejia rapidly changed lanes across three lanes and took the exit in an apparent “heat check”, a common way for drug traffickers to see if they are being followed. Mejia then was stopped at the stop light at Houser St and S 72nd St. He was in the far right hand turn lane. When the light turned green he crossed over three lanes to his left and turned westbound back towards 1-5 north. Mejia then took the on ramp for I-5 north and continued driving north at an accelerated pace. Another Detective was able to conduct a traffic stop on I-5 north near the Tacoma Dome. Mejia was detained and placed into handcuffs.
- Mejia said that he did not speak English very well and requested to speak with a Spanish speaking deputy. A Detective recorded his reading Mejia his Miranda Rights in Spanish. Another Detective, who is a natural born Spanish speaker, read Mejia the Consent to Search in Spanish with Mejia and he agreed to allow Detectives to search his vehicle. Mejia also confirmed to Detectives that he had picked up a bag from the truck driver, which was in the trunk, and that he believed there was drugs in the bag.
- Detectives conducted a search of Mejia’s Camry. During the search Mejia was in full view of the search and was aware that he could stop or restrict the search at any time but did not stop or restrict the search.
- During the search a large bag of cash was located in the center console of the Camry which later totaled $9,740 along with multiple unused Ziploc baggies. A black duffel bag was located in the trunk and inside the bag was 17 brick like objects, that said were consistent with kilos of narcotics, that later tested positive with the TruNarc detection device for fentanyl powder and weighed an estimated unpacked weight of 37.4 pounds.
- In the backseat of the Camry there was a tan colored backpack and inside the bag there were 2 long stick shaped objects that were wrapped in black and yellow tape that later tested positive with the TruNarc as methamphetamine, 2 bags of crystal like substance that later tested positive with the TruNarc as methamphetamine and the meth in total weighed 1374.6 grams or 3 pounds, and a bag of brown substance that later tested positive as heroin with NIK testing kit L and the heroin in total weighed 626.8 grams.
- Also in the tan backpack was a ledger with drug weights, nicknames, and monetary amounts and unused Ziploc baggies. In the glove box there was a digital scale. In the driver’s door pocket a tan and black Smith and Wesson 9mm semi-automatic pistol was located with the serial number scratched off. During a search of Mejia, another $281 was found in his pants pocket.
- Detectives waited for a tow truck at the location of the stop so they could tow the Camry off the left shoulder of the freeway. Detectives then transported Mejia to Precinct 4 in Burien. While waiting they noticed that Villarreal had started driving northbound on 1-5, saw him pass by their location and were able to locate and follow him northbound on 1-5. They followed Villarreal until he reached the staging area for Charlie’s Produce located at 5033 1st Ave S, Seattle.
- Once Villarreal parked his truck and exited, police were able to confirm that Villarreal was still driving the truck. Partners were informed that it was a positive ID on Villarreal and Detectives stopped Villarreal in the staging area parking lot and arrested him.
- Police held probable cause to arrest Villarreal for VUCSA conspiracy and VUCSA delivery (fentanyl and methamphetamine) from Oct. 13, 2023 and an additional count of VUCSA delivery for the delivery he made to Mejia Ortiz on Jan. 28, 2024.
- During the interview, Villarreal admitted that he knew there were narcotics in the bag that he had delivered to the “gray car”, alluding to Mejia’s gray Toyota Camry. When asked if he had ever met with the guy in the gray Camry he said that he had never seen him before. Police asked if that was the only vehicle he had delivered to that day and Villarreal informed them that there had been another vehicle, a white Honda CRV, that he had also delivered another bag of narcotics to but in a smaller amount.
- Detectives asked Villarreal about the process of getting narcotics to WA and he advised that he gets a call from someone in Sinaloa, Mexico who asks when he is going to come to WA and he will tell him his schedule. The person from Sinaloa will then tell Villarreal to go to a specific place in San Diego and meet with a specific vehicle and they will give him a package. He told police that he typically will take about “20 blocks”, alluding to how the kilos of narcotics are packaged, from Southern California to WA and then he will be told where to meet with another specific vehicle to drop the narcotics off to.
- Villareal said that the person in WA that he will meet will give him money and then he will transport the money back to either San Diego or he will cross into Mexico and give the money to another person there.
- Villarreal stated that he is paid about $10,000 per trip to deliver these large loads of narcotics. He told us that he has made several trips to deliver similar large quantities of narcotics and that he believes it was about 4 or 5 different trips. He also told us that he does not bring narcotics with him on every trip just once or twice a month.
- Villarreal told police that there were no more narcotics in the truck but there was a large sum of money inside the truck. When asked how much, he said that there was $23,000 in the truck. A Deputy read Villarreal the Consent to Search in Spanish and Villarreal gave them consent to search his truck.
- During the search of Villarreal’s truck he was in sight the entire time the vehicle was being searched and he understood that he could stop or restrict the search at any time, however he never asked for the search to stop or restrict the search. Police located two large bundles of cash, one in the seat back of the passenger seat, which totaled $10,000, and the other in a black bag on the floor behind the passenger seat, which totaled $13,060. Inside Villarreal’s wallet there was $1050.
- A Detective reached out to a Special Agent with Tacoma DEA after the stop of Mejia. That agent received consent from Mejia to search two locations that Mejia was known to stay at. One of the locations was in the 14400 block of 15th Ave SW in Burien. During the search of this location it appeared that someone had entered and gone through drawers and cleared out any of the narcotics or money that were at the location. There was baggies, a box for a digital scale and what appeared to be used and discarded bulk narcotic packaging. There were also an empty tote and duffel bag. There were also black plastic baggies with white writing, matching the one found in Mejia’s center console containing the cash.
- Villarreal was transported to Precinct 4 in Burien and later booked into King County Jail for 3 counts of VUCSA – Delivery and 1 count of VUCSA -Conspiracy.
- Mejia was transported to Precinct 4 in Burien and later booked into King County Jail for 3 counts of VUCSA – Possession with Intent to distribute, and 1 count of VUCSA – Conspiracy and RCW 9.41.190 Unlawful firearms.
The defendants are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 14, 2024.