Operation West County Blues is in the books

By on Tuesday, October 13th, 2020 in Columbia Basin News Columbia Basin Top Stories

HERMISTONNews release from the Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team:

BENT – Operation West County Blues

Umatilla County, like much of the rest of the United States is no stranger to the opioid epidemic.  The Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team (BENT) has been working to identify, investigate, disrupt, and dismantle drug trafficking organizations (DTO) within Umatilla and Morrow Counties who are manufacturing and/or delivering the synthetic opioid based pain reliver Fentanyl. 

Fentanyl is rapidly becoming not only the most widely available drug in Northeast Oregon/Southeast Washington, but also the most abused.  Fentanyl is typically more potent that other opioids resulting in a number of overdose cases monthly.  Fortunately, for those addicted to Fentanyl, Naloxone (Narcan) is now available in a nasal spray, and has proven to be an effective agent for reversing overdose responses.

Street level Fentanyl its typically pressed into pill form, dyed, and stamped to mimic the appearance of Oxycodone in “pill mills”, which resemble the clandestine methamphetamine labs that plagued Oregon in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Fentanyl is appealing to manufacturers and delivers of the drug, because most states and/or the federal government have failed to recognize the highly addictive and dangerous attributes of the drug.  Touted to be 50 to 100 times more potent than Morphine, Fentanyl is a schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act.  Meaning the penalty for manufacturing or delivering in Oregon is a Class “B” felony at most.  Typically, such charges result in presumptive probation unless the offenders’ criminal histories are extensive, or include prior conviction(s) for manufacturing or delivery.  Unlike other abused drugs, Fentanyl is not subject to substantial quantity penalty enhancements, which is one of the many reasons it is growing in popularity amongst DTOs.   

The bottom line is that the reward(s) associated with manufacturing and delivering Fentanyl far exceed the risk(s).  Without the deterrent of protracted jail or prison sentences upon conviction, offenders are motivated to reap the financial benefits of purchasing pills for $10 each before selling them for $30-$50 per unit.

BENT’s commitment to identifying, disrupting, and/or dismantling Fentanyl DTOs in Umatilla and Morrow Counties due to the increasing number of addicts, property offenses, and overdose cases is not predicated on prosecutorial consideration.  Therefore, over the past year BENT has served over ten search warrants, made over thirty arrests, seized over 8000 fentanyl pills, confiscated over twenty firearms, and started forfeiture proceedings on more than $300,000 cash. 

Agencies:

Umatilla County District Attorney Office

Morrow County District Attorneys Office 

United Stated Attorneys Office

Pendleton Police Department, Oregon State Police, Hermiston Police Department, Boardman Police Department, Morrow County Sheriff’s Office, Milton-Free water Police Department, Umatilla Tribal Police Department, Pendleton RA FBI,  LEAD Narcotics Team out of Yakima, Washington, Tri-Cities Washington FBI violent crime Taskforce, Tri-Cities DEA Metro Taskforce (WA), Hermiston Police Department, Umatilla Police Department, Oregon Department of Human Services Child Protective Services,  Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office-corrections/jail, Umatilla County Parole and Probation   

Subjects arrested for Delivery and/or Possession of Controlled Substances prior to the operation on October 12:  

Jose Isabel Cervantes Escobedo DOB 02/19/1996 (Milton-Freewater)

Dewey Harrison Richardson DOB/05/11/1991(Pendleton)

Breylyn Dawn Davis DOB/02/13/1994 (Pendleton)

Haylie Cheree Sky Wynn 09-16-1990 (Pendleton)

Dustin William Raines 01/21/1992 (Pendleton) 

Elias Huerta Magana 01/23/1994 (Toppenish/White Swan/Yakima/Wapato) 

Alyssa Joy LMNA 11/03/1990 (Pendleton)

Ridge Christina Matzen 03/10/1993 (Hermiston)

Jesus Rafael Garcia Lopez 09/11/1980 (Hermiston)

Luis Manuel Aguiar Estrada DOB 02/03/1979 (Umatilla)

Jesus Cardenas Jr. DOB 09/19/1988) (Hermiston)

Mikka Schnell DOB 04/14/1984 (Standfield)

Steven Weathers DOB 08-09-1974 (Standfield)

Twenty-one subjects were arrested during the West County Blues take down as the result of secret indictments issued for Delivery and Possession of Fentanyl.   

Note: Some of the offenders were located and arrested in the State of Washington thanks to the collaborative and much appreciated efforts of the Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force.