Debt collector and drug distributor for cartel connected, violent, drug distribution ring, sentenced to 10 years in prison


Date: November 23, 2022


Seattle — A Renton, Washington man was sentenced this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle to ten years in prison for his role in a violent, cartel connected drug distribution ring, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Benjamin Fuentes was indicted in July 2020, along with more than a dozen coconspirators following an extensive, wire-tap investigation. U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour imposed the prison term and four years of supervised release to follow incarceration.

"This defendant was immersed in the violence of this drug trafficking ring – at one point firing a gun into the air and threatening to kill everyone inside a residence as part of his debt collection threats," said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. "He and his coconspirators distributed massive amounts of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and potentially deadly fentanyl pills in King, Pierce, Lewis, and Snohomish Counties. This sentence removes him from the community he damaged with his violent drug trade."

According to records filed in the case, Fuentes worked as a drug distributor and debt collector for the drug trafficking organization that was connected to the violent CJNG cartel in Mexico. Fuentes also served as a translator for leaders of the drug trafficking group when they could not understand English-speaking coconspirators. During the wiretap, investigators repeatedly heard Fuentes discussing both drug distribution and obtaining firearms for violent debt collection on behalf of the organization.

When agents moved in on the drug ring they found methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and fentanyl pills in a residence Fuentes shared with a DTO leader. They also recovered four firearms, ballistic vests and $28,000 in cash.

In asking for a ten-year sentence Assistant United States Attorney Amy Jaquette wrote to the court, "This organization is one of the most violent our District has prosecuted. Given the extent of Fuentes' involvement in drug distribution and his repeated role in violent debt collection for the conspiracy, a lengthy sentence is needed…. Fuentes also played an integral role in the DTO's drug distribution – most notably, picking up a shipment of methamphetamine and 7,000 fentanyl pills for redistribution in our District. That quantity of fentanyl pills put innumerable lives at risk."

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Tacoma Resident Office in partnership with Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (TNET), Kent Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, SeaTac Police Department, Thurston County Narcotics Team (TNT), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Amy Jaquette and C. Andrew Colasurdo.