Hugo Acosta-Loja, a 34-year-old Edmonds resident, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 10 years in prison and five years of supervised release for possession of heroin with intent to distribute.
A citizen of Ecuador, Acosta-Loja will likely be deported following his prison term. He was arrested Nov. 19, 2010 outside his Edmonds home with more than 30 pounds of heroin and $141,000 in cash in the open trunk of his car.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Western Washington, Acosta-Loja had been on the radar screen for law enforcement years earlier during an investigation of a drug trafficking ring. He was not charged with his co-conspirators in that case, because he had left the country.
At sentencing Friday, U.S. District Judge Marsh J. Pechman told Acosta-Loja, “You are not welcome in the United States. If you try to enter again without permission the sanctions are severe… There is nothing good that can happen from coming back to the U.S.”
According to records filed in the case, Acosta-Loja was first investigated by law enforcement in 2008 in connection with a ring distributing kilos of cocaine and pound quantities of heroin in Western Washington. He was identified as a leader of the ring following his arrests for drug dealing and domestic violence. Acosta-Loja was charged in state court, but failed to appear on the charges, and he told his associates he was leaving town. He was arrested in 2009 in San Diego when he sought to illegally return to the United States. At that time he was deported.
Acosta-Loja’s associates were prosecuted in 2009 for their drug trafficking activity. This investigation by Drug Enforcement Administration agents revealed the ring sold heroin and cocaine to as many as 30 customers a day. In connection with the investigation, agents arrested eight individuals who pleaded guilty to drug trafficking crimes, and seized 14 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of heroin, and $95,000 in currency.
In May 2010, law enforcement learned that Acosta-Loja had returned to the area and was again distributing drugs. By November 2010, officers were able to track him to an Edmonds residence. Early on the morning of Nov. 19, 2010, officers saw Acosta-Loja come out of his home and open the trunk of his car. Officers moved in and made the arrest. In addition to the drugs and money in the car, agents found $30,000 in cash hidden under a bed.
In asking for a 14-year prison term, prosecutors described for the court the danger Acosta-Loja poses to the community. “…the 30 pounds of heroin seized by agents conservatively represented over 7,000 user doses of heroin. The substantial quantity of drugs and currency the defendant possessed on this single day, combined with the defendant’s lengthy, documented history of drug trafficking activity demonstrates the seriousness of his offense conduct and the danger he poses to the community,” prosecutors told the court.
According to the news release, this was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.