Leader of Prolific Fentanyl Trafficking Ring Sentenced
Two co-conspirators sentenced to 10 and 15-year prison sentences for drug and gun crimes
Seattle – Three men who were convicted at trial in August 2021, of multiple federal felonies for distributing fentanyl pills in Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. The leader of the drug ring, Bradley Woolard, 41, of Arlington, was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for his conviction on 28 counts involving conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, illegal gun possession, and possessing drugs with the intent to distribute them. Last week, co-defendants, Anthony Pelayo, 34, of Marysville, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and a $150,000 fine and Jerome Isham, 40, of Everett, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour also sentenced all three men to 5 years of supervised release following their prison terms.
“Mr. Woolard ignored the destruction his drug trafficking caused in our community, instead being driven by the enormous profits he could generate off the addiction and misery of others,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “Even after his arrest he tried to impose his will, threatening violence against others in the case, and acting as if he is above the law.”
“This complex investigation, which involved aspects of the mysterious dark web, is an example of the innovation and cooperative law enforcement effort necessary to effectively reduce violent crime and overdoses in our cities,” said Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent-in-Charge DEA Seattle Field Division. “This new digital age of trafficking fake pills, potentially laced with fentanyl, signals a renewed sense of urgency and analytical approach to bring to bear all the resources of government and community to tackle the scourge of drug trafficking and gun violence.”
According to testimony and exhibits during trial, the case began in the summer of 2018, when law enforcement officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force obtained multiple court-authorized search warrants for Woolard’s home. On July 28, 2018, they found more than 12,000 fentanyl pills designed to look like 30 mg oxycodone prescription narcotic. The pills ultimately tested positive for furanyl fentanyl, an analogue of fentanyl and a controlled substance.
The pills were pale blue in color and had “M” printed on one side and “30” on the other side. Over the course of multiple searches, law enforcement seized more than $1 million in cash and gold from Woolard’s five-acre compound, including cash hidden behind drywall, in the ceilings of outbuildings, and in a hole beneath a dishwasher. Investigators also discovered a hidden room containing 29 firearms ranging from handguns to assault rifles, including four firearm silencers and several thousand rounds of ammunition.
Testimony at trial revealed that in 2015 and 2016, Woolard began buying fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl powder from China after researching how to do so on the Dark Web. He bought a pill press and mixing materials from websites such as Amazon and eBay, and taught himself how to make homemade pills. Testimony at trial established that Woolard’s pill making operation was capable of producing more than 2.5 million pills containing fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl, and that he regularly provided thousands of pills to other conspirators for distribution. In 2017, Woolard turned the pill press operation over to Pelayo, who continued the manufacturing at a rural compound in Snohomish County. Woolard retained the role of ordering the fentanyl from China and continued to help Pelayo make and distribute the pills. Woolard continued to distribute the pills while seeking treatment for his own drug addictions at spa-like resorts in Costa Rica and Mexico, which cost him between $30,000 and $50,000 per month, which he paid for with the profits of his illicit pill operation.
Woolard was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine and will be on 5 years of supervised release following his prison term.
Jerome Isham was one of the conspiracy’s top distributors. Evidence at trial established that he was responsible for re-distributing close to 100,000 illegal fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl pills over a one-year period between July 2017, and June 2018. Isham also recruited people to receive the shipments of powdered fentanyl and furanyl fentanyl from China. Woolard and Pelayo paid for the drugs by recruiting co-conspirators to wire money to China or by paying with bitcoin.
Pelayo was also convicted of two money laundering conspiracies and multiple counts of money laundering, including using $100,000 of his cash drug proceeds to purchase a luxury RV. He was also convicted of possessing a firearm in furtherance of his drug trafficking. Woolard was convicted of being a drug user and drug addict in possession of firearms. Isham was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
The investigation was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with assistance from U.S Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force (SRDGTF) and the Whatcom County Drug and Gang Task Force.
A total of eleven defendants were charged in this case. Eight pleaded guilty. All but two of the defendants have now been sentenced.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Karyn Johnson and Mike Lang.