In one of the largest drug raids in the past decade in Spokane, a federal gang task force has arrested two dozen people and is looking for eight additional suspects, authorities announced Wednesday.
The arrests in “Operation Hybris” – capping an 18-month investigation – began at dawn Wednesday in Spokane. Twenty people were under arrest by 5 p.m. Four more were nabbed in Seattle and Tacoma.
An additional 11 suspects allegedly associated with a criminal conspiracy were arrested on state drug charges, U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt said.
The arrests were made at 15 locations searched as part of the operation by the two-year-old Spokane Gang Enforcement Team, composed of federal agents, local police and sheriff’s deputies.
The arrests were carried out by 175 federal, state and local police officers, who spent Tuesday at a briefing at Fairchild Air Force Base.
“These individuals are all either members or associates of a number of gangs, including the Crips and the Gangster Disciples,” McDevitt said.
Those named in a series of federal indictments returned June 24 are charged with assorted federal drug and firearms crimes.
One of the suspects, Michael D. Charles, 23, of Spokane, also was charged with two counts of “coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution” – a federal felony, the U.S. attorney said.
The defendants were involved in a conspiracy to possess, sell and manufacture powder cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine and Ecstasy.
It marks the first time in the Spokane area that Ecstasy has turned up in a task-force-size investigation, although individuals have been charged in the past with possessing the drug.
“Hundreds of Ecstasy pills were seized” during the arrests, said FBI supervisor Steve Dean from Seattle.
McDevitt said investigators believe most of the Ecstasy turned up in “Operation Hybris” – named after the Greek goddess of insolence, violence, wantonness, reckless pride, arrogance and outrageous behavior – is from Canada.
The U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington told an afternoon press conference that he wanted to leave a couple of important messages: “To the gangsters, Spokane is not the place to be. I guess, to take from the Chamber of Commerce, ‘Near Nature, Near Perfect,’ but not if you’re going to engage in gang activity.
“To the community,” McDevitt continued, “I think this underscores the gang issue and the gang problem, and the fact that we cannot prosecute our way out of gang activity. A lot of other activity in terms of gang-prevention strategies should be undertaken.”
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said the case is further evidence that gang members “are basically hiring our children to go out and do their work.”
Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said the arrests were the first significant fruits of the Gang Enforcement Team.
Her goal, the chief said, is to make Spokane the safest city of its size within five years, and that will necessitate eliminating gang violence.
Those arrested were taken before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno, who held a daylong series of initial court appearances.
The defendants were ordered held without bond until individual detention hearings, where prosecutors can attempt to convince the court that they should be held without bail until trial if they pose a flight risk or are a danger to the community.