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Lynnwood couple faces federal charges after found with up to $23 million worth of fentanyl

By: Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff

Following an extensive undercover drug trafficking investigation, the Lynnwood couple connected to Snohomish County’s largest fentanyl seizure last month has been charged with federal drug and gun felonies. 

Jose Casablanca, 38, and Jessie Cruz, 37, made an initial appearance in the U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday, August 17, following their July 25 arrest for the possession of large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, multiple firearms, ammunition, and body armor.

Beginning in March, two detectives with the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force (SRDTF) worked undercover as drug and gun buyers, gathering information about the couple’s drug trafficking activity, according to a criminal complaint.

Throughout the investigation, the undercover investigators met with Casablanca and Cruz multiple times in Everett and Lynnwood, purchasing heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl pills from them. The also bought a fully automatic firearm, equated to an illegal machine gun, and additional firearms from the pair said the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

During the investigation, Casablanca told the undercover detectives they had hidden a massive amount of fentanyl in their Lynnwood home inside the wall behind the television in his and Cruz’s bedroom. 

The couple was later arrested at an airplane hangar the Arlington Municipal Airport on July 25, under the impression that one of the undercover detectives was meeting them to assist them in accessing a pill press to make fentanyl tainted pills. 

At the time of the arrest, investigators searched the couple’s vehicle, discovering 13 grams of heroin in the center console and a pistol under the passenger seat floorboard of the Maserati car, according to the Snohomish County’s Sheriff’s Department July 28 news release. 

A court-authorized search warrant at the Lynnwood home resulted in the seizure of 1,400 grams of fentanyl narcotics worth an estimated $14 to $23 million, according to the Sherriff’s Department. From this supply, about 1.4 million counterfeit pills could be produced, with the capability to cause the death of approximately 700,000 people. 

“This fentanyl seizure was the largest ever in Snohomish County,” said Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department Spokesperson Courtney O’Keefe in an emailed statement. 

Investigators found an additional 808 grams of heroin and 12 grams of methamphetamine in the home. $14,000 in cash, a shotgun with an obliterated serial number and sawed-off barrel, a handgun, and equipment suggesting the pair had planned to distribute and profit off of the drugs were also seized during the search.

Task Force officers discovered vacuum-sealable bags and a vacuum sealer, blenders, and digital scales marked with presumed drug residue, and cutting agents and binding agents – supplies commonly connected with drug manufacturing.

Casablanca and Cruz are both charged with the possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute; possession of heroin with intent to distribute; and possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Casablanca is additionally charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms due to prior convictions for robbery and burglary in 2006 and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver in 2011.  

The case is being investigated by the SRDTF and the United States Marshals Service Violent Offender Task Force, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kate Crisham.

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