Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force Scores $132K Trafficking Reward
Today, the Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force received a $132,876 forfeiture award from the U.S. Department of Justice as a result of dismantling a fentanyl laced-pill drug trafficking ring in the greater Tri-City area.
The Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force is made up of officers from Kennewick Police, Richland Police, Pasco Police, West Richland Police, the Benton County Sheriff's Office, and the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.
The coordination and cooperation among local law enforcement agencies went a long way in busting two Kennewick bad guys with one suspect still on the run:
- Taylor Fertig, of Kennewick, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute 400 grams or more of Fentanyl, and was sentenced on June 26, 2019, to a 10-year term of imprisonment, to be followed by a 5-year term of court supervision. He was also ordered to forfeit $12,220 in U.S. currency seized by the United States. According to information disclosed during court proceedings, Fertig was identified as one of the first major distributors in the Tri-City area of Fentanyl-laced pills that are unlawfully made to appear to be prescription oxycodone medication.
- Dustin Alvin Zuhlke, also from Kennewick, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute Fentanyl, and was sentenced on October 22, 2020, to a 4-year term of imprisonment, to be followed by a 3-year term of court supervision, and was ordered to forfeit $136,982 in U.S. currency seized by the United States. According to information disclosed during court proceedings, Zuhlke was identified as a large scale distributor of Fentanyl-laced pills, selling over 1,000 pills per week in 2017.
- Remijio Morfin-Mendoza is a fugitive. Notwithstanding Morfin-Mendoza’s fugitive status, the United States seized and forfeited $16,893 in U.S. currency from him. On June 5, 2018, he was indicted by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Washington for one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Fentanyl and two counts of Distribution of Fentanyl. The public is reminded that charges contained in an indictment are only accusations and are not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
William D. Hyslop, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, and Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle Field Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, were in town today to announce and present the Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force with $132,876 in asset forfeiture equitable sharing funds. Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, Governing Board Chair of the Metro Drug Task Force, accepted the funds on behalf of the Task Force.
The Tri-City Metro Drug Task Force was originally formed in 1988 and has for more than 30 years had a significant impact on disruption of narcotics trafficking and related criminal activities in the Tri-Cities region, and across the State of Washington and the Pacific Northwest. It can use these funds to further its efforts.