Member of family-run fentanyl ring in Wash. sentenced to 15 years

Mar 13, 2024, 10:55 AM

family-run fentanyl...

Close-up of fentanyl pills (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

A member of a significant drug trafficking family affecting Seattle and the Tri-Cities was sentenced to prison for 15 years in addition to five years of supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Washington.

Etzael Bejar-Cardenas pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute 400 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing fentanyl late last month before his sentencing.

“The fentanyl crisis is the most dangerous drug threat I have seen in my 26 years of federal drug enforcement,” David F. Reames, Special Agent in Charge with the DEA Seattle Field Division, said in a statement. “Fentanyl traffickers like Mr. Bejar-Cardenas act with total disregard for the lives lost or ruined for their profit, but this sentence shows the resolve of the DEA and our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to confront this threat and safeguard our community.”

More on Wash. crime: One dead in fatal shooting at a gas station in North Seattle

U.S. District Judge Mary Dimke found, through information presented during court proceedings, that multiple members of the Bejar-Cardenas family have been involved in drug trafficking in the state for an extended period of time.

Two years ago, law enforcement used search warrants to investigate a “stash house” in Pasco, where more than one kilogram of fentanyl pills were recovered alongside multiple firearms.

“When police knocked and announced their presence at the home where Bejar-Cardenas was staying at the time, a 15-year-old flushed an unknown quantity of fentanyl pills down the toilet,” Robert Curry, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, wrote in a prepared statement. “During a search of the mother’s bedroom, multiple firearms were located in a safe with $30,000 in U.S. currency, and an AR-15 style rifle was located under the teenager’s bunk bed. There also were a small amount of loose fentanyl pills located on the floor of the residence, where an infant resided along with other members of Bejar-Cardenas’s family.”

Etzael was not in Pasco during the search, fleeing to Mexico instead to allegedly continue taking orders from customers in Eastern Washington. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Etzael then made contact with an undercover law enforcement officer and used him to create a new “stash house.” Etzael reportedly had approximately 50,000 fentanyl pills that he needed stored.

When Etzael returned to the U.S., he was arrested. Dimke ruled that his pattern of behavior showed he was not deterred despite law enforcement interventions, leading him to a larger sentence. The judge also noted that a stronger sentence would hopefully prevent younger family members from following in Etzael’s footsteps.

More on fentanyl: Pills being sold for as little as 40 cents in Seattle

“Mr. Bejar-Cardenas exposed minor children and even an infant to deadly fentanyl and to his drug trafficking activities,” U.S. Attorney Waldref said. “After he was taken into custody, Mr. Bejar Cardenas brazenly attempted to distribute illegal narcotics. Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat facing this country.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assisted in the investigation.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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Member of family-run fentanyl ring in Wash. sentenced to 15 years