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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Guard charged in alleged bribery scheme bringing fentanyl into Seattle jail

By David Gutman Seattle Times

SEATTLE – A former King County Jail guard, two men incarcerated in the jail and three other people have been indicted in an alleged scheme to smuggle fentanyl and methamphetamine into the downtown Seattle jail and sell or distribute the drugs to people in custody.

The federal indictment, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, accuses Mosses Ramos, 39, of accepting a bribe of about $5,000, then smuggling drugs into the jail where he’d worked as a guard for 17 years.

According to the indictment, Ramos then delivered at least 50 grams of meth and an unknown amount of fentanyl to Francisco Montero, 25, and Michael Anthony Barquet, 37, who were both incarcerated at the time.

Three other people – Neca Silvestre, 38, of Kent; Katrina Cazares, 38, of Burien; and Kayara Zepeda Montero, 27, of Seattle – were also charged, accused of passing Ramos the cash bribe and the drugs to smuggle into the jail.

Federal prosecutors describe a “web of bribes and drug trafficking” intended to spread drugs through the downtown jail, which currently holds about 700 people.

“Fentanyl and meth are horribly destructive in our community, and our correctional institutions are not immune,” acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman said in a statement. “The challenge of keeping inmates safe is made much more difficult when correctional staff betray their positions of trust and authority.”

Federal officials credited local law enforcement, including the jail, county sheriff and the county prosecutor, for their help in the investigation.

“Our partners identified the actions of an employee and brought the case to our attention which resulted in a successful joint investigation,” Richard Collodi, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office, said in a statement.

Ramos was fired in September after an internal investigation found that in May he had left several doors open, allowing a person in custody to enter another section of the jail and assault another incarcerated person. He had been suspended three times previously, in 2011, 2012 and 2013, according to his disciplinary file.

All six people are charged with conspiracy to engage in bribery, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute.

Ramos is also charged with soliciting and accepting a bribe. The other people are also charged with bribery.

Ramos, Barquet and Montero face sentences of 10 years to life in prison if convicted, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. The other three defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Montero was in jail facing two murder charges, accused of shooting a young woman and a girl over gang graffiti at a Burien apartment complex in 2018. Barquet was in jail facing gun and car theft charges.

“The charges alleged in this indictment represent not just a breach of public safety, but a disdain for the trust placed in those we count on to serve and protect,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “I want to make clear – the charges against this former employee and his co-conspirators tarnish the work that our corrections officers do every day to serve their community with professionalism and the highest standards of care.”

Dennis Falk, president of the union representing corrections officers, said in a statement that “the actions of this individual do not represent the dedication and commitment of the overwhelming majority of our members who serve the community with honor and integrity.”