MILTON-FREEWATER -- A central figure in one of the largest drug money seizures in recent years was arrested last weekend on narcotics charges.
Adrian Ibarra-Raya, 26, is being held in Umatilla County Jail today after his arrest Saturday near Milton-Freewater on 12 felony counts stemming from a drug seizure in Milton-Freewater four years ago. In addition to the drug charges, Ibarra-Raya is also being detained on a hold from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
A native of Mexico, Ibarra-Raya was the plaintiff in a civil case decided early this year contesting the city of Walla Walla's 2006 seizure of $401,333.44 in cash from a house in the city where Ibarra-Raya had been living.
Although Ibarra-Raya claimed the money was his, Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht ruled the city could keep the cash after successfully showing the money "was used in or the product of" illegal drug activity.
After being convicted of drug charges connected with the money seizure, Ibarra-Raya was deported from the United States after serving a six-month jail sentence.
The state Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in 2007, but by then Ibarra-Raya had served his sentence and had been returned to Mexico by federal authorities.
But despite being barred from re-entering the U.S., Ibarra-Raya returned to the Milton-Freewater area, which led "a person who had provided us with information in the past to call the Walla Walla police," said city police Sgt. Randy Allessio.
Ibarra-Raya was wanted on an indictment handed down by a Umatilla County grand jury charging him with possession and distribution of marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine found in a Milton-Freewater storage locker following the 2006 money seizure.
Because the Umatilla County Sheriff's Office did not have officers available, Allessio said he and other Walla Walla officers went to the Umapine area Saturday and put a house under surveillance where Ibarra-Raya had been seen.
"It took almost five hours for us to catch a glimpse of him" Allessio said. Then Ibarra-Raya got into a vehicle driven by another man and the pair headed toward Milton-Freewater.
The city officers, who are cross-deputized in Umatilla County, stopped the car on Winesap Road and arrested Ibarra-Raya without incident, Allessio said.
Allessio, who was one of the officers involved with the 2006 cash seizure, said he and others were surprised Ibarra-Raya chose to come back to an area where he was known, particularly to the local police.
"These guys are too smart to come (back) to a small town like Walla Walla. We just couldn't believe it," he said.
Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.