A Centralia man who had about 10 pounds of cocaine hidden in the attic of his Emmanuel Auto Sales business pleaded not guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for allegedly possessing with intent to distribute the drug.
Donato Valle Vega, owner of the auto dealership at 1413 Harrison Ave., made his first appearance in district court before Magistrate Judge Karen Strombom after being arrested Sept. 16 by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency with assistance from the Centralia Police Department.
Age is unknown for Valle Vega, but he appears to be an overweight man in his mid-forties with close-cropped and thinning hair and a mustache. He required an interpreter in court and did not speak during proceedings.
Valle Vega's trial is set to begin Nov. 14 in district court. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 40 years to a minimum of five years in prison, a fine of up to $2 million, and four years of mandatory supervision upon release.
According to a written complaint in the case, Valle Vega met with two FBI special agents on Sept. 2 in Fort Borst Park. There he allegedly dealt 500 grams or more of cocaine to the agents and admitted to hiding a cache of the drug at his northwest Centralia business.
Valle Vega invited the agents to Emmanuel Auto Sales and there he showed them four kilogram-size blocks of powder cocaine individually wrapped. They later weighed about 4.3 kilos.
Valle Vega told agents he originally came into possession of about 5.5 kilos in July. In August he dealt about 1.5 kilos to a customer.
According to the DEA, one kilo of cocaine is worth $22,000 to $26,000 in Western Washington, depending on factors such as purity, relationship between seller and buyer, and quantity purchased.
The DEA has declined to comment further on the investigation, saying it is ongoing.
According to Lewis County's PATS, an online property assessment and tax system, Donato and Irma Valle Vega are registered owners of the Emmanuel Auto Sales property. They purchased it for $70,000 in 2000.
According to Washington state's Department of Licensing, the Vegas also had a business license registered for Super Market Sinaloa and Meriscos Sinaloa, a wholesale food store and Mexican restaurant formerly conjoined at 500 N. Tower Ave. and 105 Center St. in downtown Centralia. The business license expired July 31.
The businesses Fruffles and La Paz Mexican Restaurant moved into the Vegas' former business locations earlier this year.
At Valle Vega's arraignment, a woman who appeared to be in her mid-thirties to early forties and a woman who appeared to be about 18 to 20 both watched and gasped as Valle Vega appeared and waved to them. Both declined to comment.