Dozens were arrested in Spokane-area raids Thursday on federal charges involving the manufacture and sale of opiate drugs in a network spanning four states.
Law enforcement agents from multiple jurisdictions served search warrants throughout the Spokane area and in Rathdrum early Thursday. They were searching for evidence that multiple people with ties to Spokane, California, Idaho and Nevada were selling ecstasy, oxycodone, methamphetamine and PCP, according to court documents.
FBI agents, Spokane police officers and Spokane County deputies have been investigating the alleged drug ring for more than a year as part of a joint task force.
The local Spokane Violent Crime and Gang Enforcement Team led the investigation, and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich singled out team members for praise during a news conference Thursday.
“I really believe this unit has made our community safer,” Knezovich said.
The arrests came after “relentless pursuit” of those involved, said Spokane police Chief Frank Straub. “We will not tolerate the distribution of drugs, acts of violence or any other activities that threaten our community,” he said.
In total, 39 people were indicted; 29 of those have been arrested and 10 more are wanted fugitives. Twenty-six of those indicted list Spokane addresses.
Most face one or two charges of distribution of a controlled substance or conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. W. Jay Abbott, acting special agent in charge for the FBI, singled out one as the ringleader, referring to the criminal activity as the “Deandre Gaither enterprise.”
Gaither, 34, faces 10 charges related to distributing a variety of illegal drugs – an echo of a 2004 drug ring bust in which he was one of 18 arrested in Spokane. He served nearly five years in prison in that case.
Investigators seized illegal drugs valued at $30,000 during the raids Thursday, Abbott said.
By the end of the day, several of those arrested posted a $10,000 bond each and were released from jail. Several others are scheduled to have a bail hearing before a federal judge on Tuesday.
According to previous news reports and court documents, most of those indicted have lengthy criminal records, including:
• Delmont A. Black, 37, is a Level 3 registered sex offender with convictions for child rape, indecent liberties and assault with a sexual motivation.
• Stafone N. Fuentes, 29, was involved in a fight that led to a fatal shooting of Moses Lake rapper Jose J. Solis at the downtown Quality Inn in 2011.
• Eric Burton, 29, who has not been arrested, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree assault in the gang-related shooting death of Calvin Banks in 2005 at the Crazy 8’s bar. He was accused of providing the gun used to shoot gang member John S. Williams in 2010.
• Rashjel G. Cage, 28, also not arrested, pleaded guilty to riot and unlawful possession of a firearm after a shooting at Hoopfest in 2010 that injured three bystanders. Cage was also involved in or a target of several other gang-related shootings in 2007 and 2008.
• John A. Grace survived a gunshot in the face from a DEA agent in 2004. Grace tried to run the agent over with his car, according to newspaper reports. The bullet went through the windshield and struck Grace.
Grace was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of assaulting a federal officer and selling crack cocaine.