From Sinaloa to Seattle

A Mexican cartel's ties to a massive Seattle drug bust.

Federal agents arrested more than 40 people around Puget Sound on March 28 and 29, netting 50 pounds of drugs, $190,000 cash, and 31 guns—the culmination of two lengthy investigations that used informants to infiltrate a network of "sub-groups" and "sub-cells" that imported dope from Mexico via California and Arizona.

When one of the mid-level pushers was arrested, he allegedly confessed to DEA agents that he'd come to Seattle as a 16-year-old when "They brought me here and showed me how to sell drugs." And after another batch of court documents became public last week, we finally know "they" were a Mexican cartel.

A criminal complaint against Noe Magelleon-Miranda—a mid-level meth and heroin dealer based in Pacific, a small town just south of Auburn—says he was affiliated with a group that "trafficked narcotics and firearms for high-ranking members of the Beltrán-Leyva cartel, based out of the Gabriel Leyva Solano/Los Mochis area of Sinaloa, Mexico."

Magelleon-Miranda, known by the nickname "Cascaras," was a minor cog in the vast narco machine. He reported to the relative of a local capo named Victor Berrelleza-Leal, aka "Don Victor," who would allegedly use cars with hidden compartments to smuggle multiple kilos of meth and heroin up from California, with up to $400,000 per shipment sent back south in those same compartments. The money was allegedly laundered into accounts that once belonged to Arturo "El Jefe de Jefes" Beltrán-Leyva, formerly the leader of the organization allied with the powerful Sinaloa Cartel. After a series of betrayals—Arturo was killed in a shootout with Mexican Marines and his brother Alfredo wound up in a Mexican prison—the cartel, it's said, lost some of its clout. It is now led by yet another Beltrán-Leyva brother, Hector.

The Beltrán-Leyvas' fortunes certainly did not improve with the wave of Seattle arrests, which presumably crippled their local distribution network. At least 30 men, including "Don Victor," are now under federal indictment for money-laundering and for conspiracy to distribute meth and heroin. As the bust here shows, the degrees of separation between Seattle and Sinaloa are unnervingly few.

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