A 50-year-old Washington man was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to seven years in prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl pills, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown in a news release.
The defendant, Preston Joseph Smith, was arrested in December 2021 in Port Angeles on allegations he distributed pound quantities of illegal drugs, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said the drug trafficking organization Smith worked for was trafficking a higher quantity of drugs than most drug trafficking organizations the court has seen, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office
“This investigation revealed that the drug trafficking organization was distributing large amounts of drugs in the Northeast, Midwest and the South, as well as in the Western District of Washington,” Brown said in a written statement. “I commend our law enforcement partners who shut down a ring aiming to distribute 100 pounds of meth per month in Western Washington.”
According to records filed in the case, law enforcement identified the leaders of the drug trafficking ring as early as February 2020. Smith’s activities as a drug redistributor came into focus in June and July 2021, as he distributed pound quantities of methamphetamine and hundreds of fentanyl pills. Smith was able to come up with thousands of dollars to pay up front for drugs — in one instance paying $25,000 for a kilo of heroin.
Smith, who has a 30-year history of drug trafficking crimes, was indicted along with more than a dozen others in the fall of 2021. The drug ring, headed by Jose Alfredo Maldonado-Ramirez and Iris Adrianna Amador-Garcia, distributed drugs widely in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia, according to the news release.
Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized 9 pounds of methamphetamine in a traffic stop on May 16, 2020. Another 30 pounds of meth was seized in a stop on April 2, 2021, and 57 pounds of methamphetamine and 20,000 fentanyl pills were seized in a traffic stop on Sept. 28, 2021. Additionally, on Aug. 17, 2021, law enforcement seized 19 pounds of methamphetamine that conspirators attempted to mail to Fiji, according to the news release.
Smith, who has 11 prior drug distribution convictions, pleaded guilty to charges in the current case in September 2022.
In asking for an eight-year prison sentence, prosecutors wrote to the court, “While the number of people directly and indirectly impacted by Smith’s conduct is difficult to quantify, it is undeniable that the methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl Smith helped spread through our community undoubtedly fell into the hands of long-time addicts, first-time users, and everyone in between. Their lives, and the lives of those around them, will never be the same.”
Coughenour ordered four years of supervised release to follow the prison term.
This case is the result of an investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, which identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States, according to the news release.
The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration Seattle Field Division Tacoma Resident Office and the Bremerton Police Department. The Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team and the Centralia and Chehalis police departments were also credited for having a role in the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys C. Andrew Colasurdo and Will Dreher.