A Hanford worker and his brother sentenced for helping uncle’s ‘massive’ drug business

A former Hanford nuclear site worker and his older brother have been sentenced to 12 years in federal prison after helping their uncle’s fentanyl, meth and other illicit drugs business in Eastern Washington.

Carlos Reyes-Santana, 28, of Pasco, and Eduardo Reyes-Santana, 26, of Kennewick, reached plea agreements for possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine.

But both also were originally charged with possession with intent to deliver fentanyl, heroin and cocaine after large quantities of drugs, including 50,000 fentanyl-laced pills, were found at Carlos Reyes-Santana’s home, and five guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition were found at Eduardo Reyes-Santana’s home.

Both were under FBI surveillance because of their ties to their uncle Alfonso Avila Olivera, also known as Ponchin, according to court documents.

Olivera had a large drug operation in Eastern Washington until he moved to Mexico in 2019, according to court documents.

The Reyes-Santana brothers took over drug trafficking for him in Eastern Washington, according to a confidential informant quoted in court records.

Olivera continues his drug operation from Mexico, using long-haul trucks to import drugs into the United States, according to court documents.

Not only did the brothers “have possession of a massive quantity of drugs, they also were in possession of a massive amount of U.S. currency,” said Caitlin Baunsgard, assistant U.S. attorney, in a court document.

Each were observed making trips to Spokane as part of the drug operation. Eduardo Reyes-Santana would deliver knapsacks filled with drugs and return to the Tri-Cities with knapsacks filled with cash, according to court documents.

In May 2021, Carlos Reyes-Santana’s house was searched and 52 pounds of meth, 1 pound of cocaine, 50,000 fentanyl pills, 3.5 kilograms of heroin, drug ledgers and more than $420,000 were found.

The same day the guns were found during a search of his brother’s house. Agents also found seven kilograms of cocaine, 1 pound of meth, 50 fentanyl pills and more than $70,000 in cash in a Pasco storage unit that both brothers had visited.

“These defendants were responsible for injecting a massive amount of fentanyl and other deadly drugs into our neighborhoods,” said Vanessa Waldref, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

Eduardo Reyes-Santana’s attorney, Ken Therrien, said in court documents that a cooperating defendant in the case told authorities that Eduardo Reyes-Santana was recruited by his older brother to join the drug operation and only began running narcotics a few months before his arrest.

When he was arrested, he lost his job as a union laborer at Hanford. There is no indication that any of his criminal activity was related to or at the nuclear reservation.

Because he was not an addict and had an income, his choice to run drugs was particularly concerning, Baunsgard said in a court document.

Court documents did not detail how his older brother became involved in their uncle’s drug operation.

“The FBI, along with our partners, are committed to removing these illegal drugs from Washington state and the path of addiction, violence, suffering and overdoses that accompanies them,” said Richard Collodi, special agent in charge of the FBI Seattle field office.

U.S. Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakama federal court also sentenced each brother to five years of probation after they complete their prison terms.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Southeast Washington Safe Streets Task Force.

The task force was assisted by multiple local law enforcement entities, including the Benton and Franklin County Sheriff’s Office; the Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland police departments; the Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force, and the Washington State Department of Corrections. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Border Patrol also provided assistance.