Six people from Centralia, Rochester, Astoria, Lakewood and Fresno, California, were arrested in what the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET) called the dismantling of a drug trafficking organization, according to a news release Wednesday.
“Beginning in 2021 and ending on May 11, 2022, members of the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team investigated a drug trafficking organization distributing illegal drugs from Fresno, California, to the Pacific Northwest,” according to the release. “During this investigation, several members of this organization were monitored selling large amounts of methamphetamine to customers in Lewis, Thurston, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor and Pierce Counties.”
The investigation built on previous investigations completed in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2019 looking into a family-run drug operation referred to in court documents as “the Venegas DTO.”
On Wednesday, search warrants were executed in Centralia and Lakewood as well as in Fresno and Astoria.
“During this investigation, members of JNET seized over 105 pounds of methamphetamine believed to have been trafficked to our area from Mexico,” according to the release. “The estimated street value of the illegal drugs seized during this operation is $500,000.”
The following subjects were arrested for drug trafficking crimes:
• Jesus Venegas-Gatica, 35, Lakewood
• Cristobal Venegas-Diaz, 47, Centralia
• Jose Venegas-Gatica, 34, Rochester
• Hernestina Venegas-Gatica, 45, Astoria
• Juan Tolentino-Chino, 33, Astoria
• Cutberto Hernandez-Gatica, 32, Fresno
The six subjects have been named as co-defendants in a case out of Lewis County Superior Court.
Venegas-Gatica, Venegas-Diaz and Hernandez-Gatica appeared in court for preliminary hearings before Judge Joely Yeager on Thursday.
While the three codefendants lacked any significant criminal history, Yeager maintained their respective bails at the $250,000 amount set by another judge in the arrest warrants out of concern for community safety.
This investigation is ongoing as more suspects are being identified, according to JNET.
Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to call JNET Detective Sergeant Tracy Murphy at 360-330-7614.
The Joint Narcotic Enforcement Team is composed of members of the Centralia and Chehalis police departments, the Washington State Department of Corrections and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“This organized operation was successful with the assistance of the Grays Harbor County Drug Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, Tahoma Narcotic Enforcement Team, Aberdeen Police Department, Kelso Police Department, Astoria Police Department, DEA Portland, DEA Fresno, Fresno Police Department and Amtrak Police,” according to JNET.