February 21, 2024

Whatcom detectives found 10 kilos of fentanyl — enough to kill the entire population of Bellingham — during an arrest last month.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said about a month ago, the Whatcom Sheriff’s Office Gang and Drug Task Force (WGDTF) recieved information that a large-scale drug distribution network was being run from a homeless encampment in the 4400 block of Guide Meridian, in Bellingham.

The sheriff’s office said, “Detectives were familiar with the encampment as it had been the location of several violent assaults, sexual assaults, fentanyl overdoses, stolen vehicle recoveries, stolen firearms, and other criminal activity.”

While surveilling the encampment, detectives saw a lot of people openly using and buying drugs.

On August 29, one of the suspects, a 34-year-old man, was pulled over by Oregon State Police near Salem. Officers found around 70,000 suspected fentanyl-laced pills in the car along with around $2,000. The man was arrested on state charges for having drugs in his car.

Later that day, WGDTF along with other officers searched a storage unit in Lynnwood being used by the 34-year-old man.

Inside they found around:

  • 3000g of suspected fentanyl powder.

  • 500g of suspected fentanyl-laced pills.

  • 1000g of suspected heroin.

  • 300g of suspected methamphetamine.

  • A loaded, 9mm handgun.

  • $46,000.

Detectives believe the drugs were going to be sold throughout Bellingham.

“The DEA states that 2mg of fentanyl is ‘considered a potentially lethal dose.’ The total amount of suspected fentanyl-laced pills and powder seized, over 10 kilos, is enough to potentially kill the entire population of Bellingham, conservatively,” said the sheriff’s office.

On Aug. 31, officers searched the 34-year-old man’s compound in the homeless encampment in Bellingham. Detectives found the following:

  • Four firearms including an AR-15 assault-style rifle, an illegal, “sawed-off” shotgun, a reported stolen .22 caliber pistol, and a 12-gauge shotgun.

  • A small amount of suspected fentanyl powder.

  • Suspected drug packaging material and other drug paraphernalia.

  • $5,876.

Officers also rescued 13 dogs, including 11 puppies, from the compound and delivered them to the Whatcom Humane Society.

“Over the past three years, our community has experienced a surge of overdose deaths associated with the illicit use of fentanyl and gun violence associated with drug trafficking organizations,” said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo. “We are very proud of the efforts of our Sheriff’s Office Gang and Drug Task Force, in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, in conducting a complex multi-state investigation that resulted in the arrest of Mr. Vasquez Martinez and the seizure of large quantities of fentanyl, other dangerous narcotics, firearms, and currency. Eradicating these types of organizations remains one of the Sheriff’s Office’s highest priorities.”

Participating agencies included the WGDTF, WCSO SWAT, Drug Enforcement Administration from the Bellingham Resident Office, Homeland Security Investigations, Bellingham Police Department SWAT, Customs and Border Protection Air Marine Branch, and Customs and Border Protection.

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