Saturday, January 16, 2021

Accused criminal gang leader, drug trafficker sentenced to 20 years

Staff Writer | January 14, 2021 1:00 AM

SPOKANE — An accused Grant County leader of a criminal street gang was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to a number of drug trafficking charges, according to a press release from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

Joshua Isaac Stine, 34, of Ephrata, was sentenced to 240 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine and a mixture or substance containing heroin, possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, and distribution of 50 grams or more of actual (pure) methamphetamine, according to the press release. He pleaded guilty to felon in possession of a firearm.

Stine originally was arrested in July 2019, along with Luis Manuel Farias-Cardenas, another suspected gang leader, as well as 11 others with alleged involvement with the street gang during an extensive, regional series of drug raids in Moses Lake, Ephrata, Yakima and Warden.

Agents and officers seized pounds of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, as well as more than 50 firearms and a significant quantity of U.S. currency, according to the press release at the time. No specific amounts of drugs or money were provided at that time.

Two special agents were injured by shrapnel July 2019 during a shootout following a raid at a home on the 2400 block of Road E.5 Northeast in Mae Valley, though their injuries were non-life threatening, according to law enforcement. A suspect was critically injured during the incident after reportedly shooting themselves in the head, and was transported to a hospital in Spokane, according to law enforcement.

This investigation was a continuation of law enforcement efforts in December 2017, which focused on violent drug traffickers who were operating in Grant County. The earlier investigations resulted in 24 people who pleaded guilty in federal court and the seizure of eight pounds of methamphetamine, 10 vehicles, $25,000 and more than 80 firearms, according to a press release. Multiple firearms were also located at Stine’s primary residence in Ephrata, according to the press release from the attorney’s office.

“Stine has been a validated member and a leader of the East Side Familia Norteno criminal street gang. In this role, Stine engaged in significant, multi-pound-level trafficking of both methamphetamine and heroin. Further, Stine recruited and trained young gang members to distribute controlled substances for the East Side Familia and himself. Those individuals face federal sentencing for their criminal activities later this month,” according to a Wednesday press release.

Court documents stated Farias-Cardenas already pleaded guilty and was sentenced on January 6, but that was continued to later in the month. Federal officials have seized three pieces of property in Moses Lake and two in Othello owned by Farias-Cardenas, according to federal documents.

Stine’s prison sentence is to be followed by a 10-year term of court supervision after he is released from federal prison, according to a press release.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Border Patrol, the Moses Lake Police Department, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office, the Ephrata Police Department, the Washington State Patrol, the Othello Police Department, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, and the Northwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The case was prosecuted by Caitlin Baunsgard, an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.