Yakima police and a multi-agency drug task force are sharing assets seized in a major drug bust.
William Hyslop, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, said at a news conference Friday at Yakima City Hall that the Yakima Police Department and the Law Enforcement Against Drugs task force would evenly split more than $163,500 that was seized after a Grandview-based drug trafficking organization was prosecuted.
“If you think there is profit to be made in selling illegal drugs, we will use all legal means possible to relieve you of those gains,” Hyslop said. “We will return a significant share of those ill-gotten gains to the community that participates to be used for the further protection of our citizens.”
The task force is comprised of officers from the Washington State Patrol, the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office and the Union Gap, Grandview and Sunnyside police departments. The sheriff’s office serves as the task force’s fiscal agent.
LEAD and the YPD received $81,783.59 after a yearlong operation that targeted an organized drug ring that was supplying methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana to the Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap Indian nations in Montana, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The investigations began in 2015, and the last of 11 defendants was sentenced last year.
Hyslop said the arrests and the work done in Yakima had a “significant impact” in reducing drug sales on the reservations.
The final assets were forfeited and sold off this year, with YPD and LEAD receiving 80% of the money, based on their participation in the case, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Donovan. Twenty percent goes to the federal government, in accordance with Justice Department policy.
Yakima County Sheriff Bob Udell said the seizure funds were a welcome boost to the task force’s budget. While the individual departments cover the salaries of the officers involved, Udell said seizure money will go toward operating expenses, such as replacing old body armor, as well as maintaining task-force vehicles.
“We were running on a shoestring,” Udell said.
LEAD operates on a $377,000 budget, said Chief Civil Deputy Ed Levesque, who also oversees the task force.
Yakima police officers assisted with drug buys and surveillance during the investigation of the Rafael Cervantes drug ring, Hyslop said.
Yakima police Chief Matt Murray said YPD’s share of the cash will go toward “pro-active” police efforts to combat violent crime in the city. He noted that most violent crime is related to drugs.
“Anything that we can get is really helpful. We can use this for a variety of purposes to continue this effort,” Murray said.
All 11 people involved in the ring pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Cervantes, who authorities said was the leader and main source of supplies in the ring, was sentenced to 10 years, which will run consecutive to a prior two-year sentence for an unrelated violation of supervised release, Hyslop said.