Lynnwood couple arrested for fentanyl possession face federal charges

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office seized 1,400 grams of fentanyl, the largest amount seized in Snohomish County. (Photo courtesy of SCSO)

A Lynnwood couple has been charged in federal court after 1,400 grams of fentanyl were found in their home last month, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Jose L. Casablanca, 38, and Jessie N. Cruz, 37 — who were arrested in late July on Snohomish County drug possession charges — were both charged in U.S. District Court Aug. 17. The federal criminal complaint against them followed a lengthy undercover investigation involving the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force and the United States Marshals Service Violent Offender Task Force, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF). The investigation began in March.

The complaint details how two detectives with the regional drug task force posed as drug and gun buyers to gather information about the pair’s drug trafficking activity. The undercover detectives purchased heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl pills from both of the suspects.

The detectives also reported purchasing multiple firearms from the pair including a fully automatic firearm, described as an illegal machine gun. According to the complaint, Casablanca is a convicted felon who is prohibited from possessing firearms. While undercover, the detectives learned Cruz transported the guns to a sale location so that Casablanca would not be caught with a firearm.

During their time with the undercover detectives, Casablanca and Cruz confided that they had large quantities of fentanyl in their Lynnwood residence. On the day of their arrest, they also spoke with another undercover officer about getting a pill press to manufacture counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl.

A court-authorized search warrant at the Lynnwood home resulted in the seizure of large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, multiple firearms and ammunition, as well as body armor. Following their arrest, law enforcement searched the Maserati the couple used in their drug trafficking activities and found both narcotics and a firearm.

The street value of the fentanyl seized was reported to range between $14 million to $23 million. With that, detectives said 1.4 million pills could have been produced. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent and is often used to make counterfeit prescription pills.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 31,000 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Based on the supply seized July 25 detectives said the amount of fentanyl could potentially have resulted in 700,000 deaths.

Casablanca, who has prior convictions in Snohomish County for robbery and burglary, has been charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

Casablanca and Cruz are both charged with three additional federal felonies: possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute; possession of heroin with intent to distribute; and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime

With a prior felony conviction, the possession of a firearm charge could get Cruz up to five years in prison. Given the drug quantities, the drug counts are punishable by a mandatory minimum five years in prison. The use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime could result in an additional five-year sentence to run consecutive to the drug trafficking term.

The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force and the United States Marshals Service Violent Offender Task Force, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kate Crisham.

–By Cody Sexton

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