Seattle-area raids, arrests target oxycodone ring
Seattle police and the FBI say they arrested 24 people in a prescription-drug ring.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle police and the FBI say they broke up an organized ring of prescription-drug dealers Tuesday morning with the arrests of 24 people, including a Kent man identified as the leader of the group.
Several of those arrested were known to hang out at Maya's Mexican Restaurant in Rainier Beach, where a high-profile shooting in the parking lot in February prompted Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz to say an increase in violent crime in the neighborhood was "an emergency."
On Tuesday, Metz said the drug-related arrests would improve safety in Rainier Valley, especially Rainier Beach.
"We are confident that the arrests of these individuals is going to make folks in those neighborhoods safer," he said after a news conference to announce the arrests.
The arrests were the culmination of a two-year investigation by the FBI and Seattle police involving undercover officers making drug buys on the street as well as phone taps to intercept calls and texts among people involved in the ring, they said. They said the arrests "dismantled" the ring, crippling the local oxycodone supply chain.
The defendants were described in a news release as "hard-core, violent career criminals."
According to the complaints filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, police think the ring leader, Herman J. Roche, 43, of Kent, sent people to Northern California to buy thousands of oxycodone pills. Then he would distribute them to midlevel dealers in Seattle, the complaints said.
Those arrested Tuesday at residences in Northern California and in the Seattle area are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
Officers also seized 20 firearms and about $40,000, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said.
Maya's owner Exequiel Soltero said he has called police dozens of times to report drug dealing in his parking lot, but detectives told him they were working on a bigger case. Finally, after February's shooting scared many of his customers away, he closed the bar at his restaurant.
"I didn't want those people hanging out here anymore," he told The Seattle Times.
Crime in the neighborhood has almost forced him to shut down his 33-year-old restaurant this year.
"It affects us quite a bit, because a lot of the families are afraid to come down this way," Soltero said. "I don't blame them. I would be afraid to have my family out in this neighborhood late."
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or email@example.com. On Twitter @EmilyHeffter.