KELSO — Cowlitz County drug agents have arrested a Vancouver man they describe as a major heroin dealer whom they say has direct ties to a Mexican drug cartel and was responsible for pumping pounds of heroin into the local area each month.
A Cowlitz Superior Court judge found probable cause this month to charge Osbaldo Daniel Uribe Sanchez, 24, with three counts of heroin delivery. Uribe faces drug charges in Clark County as well as federal immigration charges. He is also suspected of money laundering and leading an organized criminal operation, said Sgt. Kevin Tate, who oversees the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force.
“This was one of the big fish,” Tate said. “He is involved in an organization that moves a huge volume of money and drugs through our region.”
Uribe, who is being held in the Cowlitz County Jail, admitted to participating in a “well-coordinated and sophisticated drug trafficking organization” that has been smuggling heroin and meth from Mexico, according to court documents.
The operation involves a network of couriers who use personal vehicles as well as the Estrella Blanca bus line, one of Mexico’s largest bus companies, to bring the drugs into the U.S. through Phoenix to Portland, according to court documents released Friday. Uribe told police he would pick up the drugs and distribute them to another network of couriers and “wholesalers” in Portland, Vancouver and Longview, according to an affidavit.
“We have every reason to believe he is directly connected to one of the international drug cartels,” Tate said. “The impact of drug use in this community ties directly to those cartels.”
Tate declined to name the criminal organization. He also declined to say what information Uribe had provided about the cartel or what measures were being taken to ensure Uribe’s safety.
Held on warrant
Uribe was arrested May 17 and has been held on an immigration warrant. Investigators didn’t introduce the drug allegations in court until this week because the case involved multiple law-enforcement agencies in several jurisdictions, and coordinating with them has proved slow going, Tate said.
Uribe’s arrest follows a years-long investigation involving federal drug agents, the Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Portland Police Bureau and federal immigration officers. Several other people were arrested, and more arrests associated with the case are expected, Tate said.
Court documents said local task force agents learned in 2010 of a man known as “Pedro,” later identified as Uribe, was supplying large amounts of heroin to the area, according to court documents.