Court report

Court report

A 41-year-old Burlington man was sentenced Friday to 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to laundering money for a drug cartel.

Orlando Barajas, who owns and operates Tacos El Antojito in Burlington and El Antojito in Sedro-Woolley, pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to a federal indictment, an 18-month investigation found Barajas was assisting the cartel by transferring tens of thousands of dollars in profits from the trafficking of heroin and fentanyl to Mexico using a money remittance service offered at his Burlington store.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

Thousands of fentanyl-laced pills were seized during the investigation, a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington stated.

“Stopping the flow of cash to the cartels in Mexico is a key component in battling the flow of these dangerous drugs into our community,” U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in the release. “This cartel-connected trafficking organization brought heroin and fentanyl into our communities. We will do all we can to stop the deadly toll of those drugs.”

According to the release, investigators determined the cartel had distributed heroin, fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine in five counties in Western Washington — including Skagit — as well as throughout Oregon, California, Utah, Arizona, Tennessee and New York.

According to the release, Barajas used fake names to make the transfers, including one three-week period in which he transferred $27,000.

Barajas and others were arrested in late 2018.

During the past few months, several of the cartel leaders arrested along with Barajas have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to between four and 10 years in prison, the release states.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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