One of the leaders of a violent international drug trafficking organization that distributed heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine in the Puget Sound region pleaded guilty Monday afternoon, Aug. 30, 2022 in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington announced.

Jose Elias Barbosa, 37, of Kent, faces a mandatory minimum ten years in prison and up to life in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on Dec. 13, 2022.

In his plea agreement, Barbosa admits he was one of the leaders of a transnational drug trafficking organization. Law enforcement has linked the organization to the CJNG cartel in Mexico. In November 2019, the DTO received a shipment of liquid methamphetamine concealed in candles. Barbosa helped DTO members to extract the methamphetamine and cook it into crystal form at a Port Orchard, Washington location. Barbosa was responsible for the distribution of at least 55 pounds of methamphetamine, 600 grams of heroin, and fentanyl throughout Western Washington and elsewhere.

Barbosa also pursued those who owed drug debts to the organization and possessed firearms during the drug conspiracy. According to the plea agreement, on one occasion, Barbosa took a car from another DTO member to satisfy a drug debt. Barbosa later threatened that same DTO member.

Prosecutors have agreed to recommend no more than 168 months in prison when Barbosa is sentenced in December.

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

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Tacoma Resident Office in partnership with Tahoma Narcotics Enforcement Team (TNET), Kent Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, SeaTac Police Department, Thurston County Narcotics Team (TNT), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Amy Jaquette and C. Andrew Colasurdo.

Scott Schaefer

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