FBI busts Kent man for allegedly leading major oxycodone distribution ring

A federal grand jury indicted a 43-year-old Kent man as a ringleader for allegedly distributing thousands of oxycodone painkilling pills that led to the arrests of two dozen people Tuesday by more than 100 federal and local law enforcement agents across the Puget Sound and Northern California.

The arrests are the culmination of a two-year investigation by the Seattle Safe Streets Task Force, operated by the FBI and Seattle Police Department, according to a Department of Justice media release. The defendants will make their initial appearance Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Members of the ring would frequently travel to Northern California to pick up 2,000 to 5,000 percocet (oxycodone) pills per trip, according to the criminal complaints and indictment. The ring, led by Herman J. Roche, of Kent, would then sell the pills throughout the Puget Sound region.

“Prescription drug abuse is a growing threat in our community, with terrible consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan in the media release.  “This drug ring was feeding addiction with thousands of pills trafficked from California. They lined their pockets by destroying the lives and families of so many in our community.”

The investigation into the organized criminal group involved confidential informants as well as court-authorized wiretaps of three phones belonging to Roche. Agents in California arrested defendants who were the source of supply for the drugs.

“Drugs tear at the inner fabric of our community in countless ways,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Laura M. Laughlin. “They bring violence to our streets. They waste young lives and wreak havoc on families. They drain the resources of our health care systems.

"This joint investigation with the Seattle Police Department focused not only on taking harmful drugs off the streets, but on dismantling the organization behind them. The FBI is committed to preventing criminal enterprises from continuing to damage our community.”

In addition to Roche, those indicted for investigation of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances include:

Robert M. Kearney JR., 40, of Stockton, Calif.

Shaunte M. Anthony, 34, of Oakland, Calif.

Ruchell Gilbert, 38, of Renton

Brandy N. Butler, 34, of Seattle

Nickole E. Martin, 25, of Kent

Jason R. Lee, 26, of Seattle

Rahman Johnson, 35, of Kent

Saxton F. Mason, 35, of Seattle

Ernest J. Ellison, 47, of Seattle

Demonta M. Henry, 24, of Kent

Vincent L. Fields, 44, of Tacoma

Corey A. Brown, 39, of Seattle

Clarence D. Williams, 32, of Seattle

Joseph D. Roche, 46, of Seattle

Thomas D. Lee, 45, of Seattle

David L. Potts, 48, of Spanaway

Curium L. Hurley, 29, of Tukwila

Conspiracy to distribute controlled substances is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The investigation was part of an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.

The case is being investigated by the Seattle Safe Streets Task Force containing agents and officers from the FBI and Seattle Police Department.  Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), along with officers from the Auburn Police Department, Des Moines Police Department, Federal Way Police Department, Kent Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office, Kirkland Police Department, Mountlake Terrace Police Department, Port of Seattle Police Department, Renton Police Department and Tukwila Police Department partnered with the task force on Tuesday’s arrests.

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