WA: Three Drug Traffickers Convicted of Drug and Money Laundering Conspiracies

Imported fentanyl from China and produced and distributed pills that appeared to be oxycodone

Three men were convicted late yesterday of multiple federal felonies for distributing fentanyl disguised as oxycodone pills in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom Counties, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.  The leader of the drug ring, Bradley Woolard, 42, of Arlington, was convicted of 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.  Co-defendants Anthony Pelayo, 34, of Marysville, and Jerome Isham, 40, of Everett, were also convicted of conspiracies related to drug distribution and illegal gun possession.

The jury deliberated for two days following the ten-day trial.  The men are scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on November 16, 2021.

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.

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 – resulting in a 5 year consecutive prison term to any other sentence imposed in the case.

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.

Conspiracy and possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute is punishable by a mandatory minimum ten years in prison and up to life in prison.  Being a felon in possession of a firearm, or a drug user and drug addict in possession of firearms, is punishable by up to ten years in prison.  Money laundering is punishable by up to twenty years in prison.

This was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved.  The investigation is being led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with assistance from 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 have pleaded guilty, and two have been sentenced. Woolard, Pelayo, and Isham were the final three defendants in this conspiracy to proceed to trial.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Karyn Johnson and Mike Lang.

DEA Press Release

Tags: DTO Opioid Crisis

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