One of King County's largest drug busts yields $10M worth of drugs, over 478K fentanyl pills

One of the largest single drug busts in King County history has taken over $10 million worth of drugs off the streets of western Washington. 

Detectives with the King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) and the Burien Police Department arrested six men on Dec. 21 for their alleged involvement in what is being described as a massive cartel operation.

Undercover detectives on the Special Emphasis Team (SET) worked for months on Operation P-22 to take down just one branch of the cartel activity. The operation was named for SET Det. Brad Smith, who worked for KCSO to get drugs off the street for over 37 years.

"It is obviously a moment of pride," said Todd Morrell, the interim chief for the Burien Police Department. "We’re very proud of the work. I think the team would agree that this is one step in a much larger problem."

In total, these narcotics were seized in the operation: 

  • 478,000 M30 fentanyl pills, of which 5,000 were rainbow fentanyl
  • 400 pounds of meth
  • 25 pounds of fentanyl powder
  • 31 pounds of heroin
  • 5 handguns
  • 3 rifles

This bust netted one of the largest seizures in KCSO history. 

"King County Sheriff's Office has been around as you know, since 1852. So we can't throw those claims out," said Morrell. "But the general consensus is if this is not the largest, it is among the very, very top," 

Detectives arrested 12 individuals over the course of the entire operation.

Some of the suspects were found to be renting out of quiet, unsuspecting neighborhoods, including two in Des Moines. One of those houses happened to be right next door to the mayor of Des Moines. 

"It’s shocking, but it’s not shocking. It's reaching every one of us nowadays," said Des Moines mayor Matt Mahoney. "I mean, crime’s up and what it’s done is the places where crime used to be, it's moved. It’s actually coming to the bedroom communities like this one."

As well as the drugs, $520,817 in cash was seized from multiple individuals.

"I think the detectives in this unit would agree that the focus should be on the supply. If you cut the supply, demand goes down," Morrell said of the operation. 

While getting over $10 million worth of deadly drugs off the streets may sound like a massive haul, Morrell said the reality is a bit more bleak. 

"I would say, without a doubt-- equal, if not greater amounts, are still out there," Morrell said. 

It's unclear what the six individuals will be charged with. 

Two suspects are being held on $500,000 bail and one suspect had bail set at $1 million.