Tacoma man faces charges for stolen Grays Harbor firearm, drug, other gun violations

A Tacoma man has been indicted for drug and firearm crimes, including charges related to a Grays Harbor stolen handgun.

According to the Justice Department, the 43-year-old Tacoma man was taken into custody in February 2023, and was indicted by a grand jury for three federal felonies: Unlawful Possession of Firearms; Possession of Controlled Substances with Intent to Distribute; and Possession of Firearms in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime. 

Cesar Leonel Contreras-Arias was set to be arraigned on the indictment this week.

“This defendant was being sought on a Washington Department of Corrections warrant for escape, when he was found to have multi-pound quantities of fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. “Equally concerning was his possession of firearms – many of them reported stolen from across the Puget Sound region. Prosecuting armed drug traffickers remains a top priority for federal law enforcement.”

According to records filed in the case, Contreras-Arias was arrested in February outside Tacoma’s Clarion Inn on Tacoma Mall Blvd..

Contreras-Arias had been living at the hotel for about a year, and law enforcement had received information that he was dealing drugs from that location. 

When approached by law enforcement, Contreras-Arias tried to flee, smashing his truck into a police vehicle that had parked behind him. 

When law enforcement searched Contreras-Arias, they found two cell phones, $7,000 in cash and keys to three rooms at the Clarion Inn. 

Inside Contreras-Arias’ truck, officers found a .22 caliber Ruger handgun which had been reported stolen in Grays Harbor County.

Law enforcement searched the three rooms at the hotel and found 90 pounds of methamphetamine and five pounds of fentanyl powder. They also found eleven passports – some of them reported stolen. 

There were four firearms in one of the hotel rooms: a 9 mm Sig Sauer handgun that had been reported stolen in Tukwila; a tactical shotgun; a 9mm semi-automatic Glock; and a Springfield Hellcat 9mm handgun.

Law enforcement also searched a storage unit that Contreras-Arias and his companion had rented. Inside was another stolen handgun – a Colt Model Anaconda 44 magnum revolver. The Colt had been reported as lost and suspected stolen in Kitsap County. Two firearm magazines were in the storage unit, an extended 9mm magazine, and a polymer rifle magazine containing 30 rounds of 7.62×39 ammunition.

Contreras-Arias is prohibited from possessing firearms due to a 2016 conviction in Benton County for violating a protection order.

Illegal possession of firearms is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

 Due to the drug quantities involved, possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute is punishable by a mandatory minimum ten years in prison and up to life in prison. Possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime is punishable by a mandatory five years in prison to run consecutive to any sentence imposed on the other counts of conviction.