Former Whidbey man alleged ‘key’ drug distributor

A former Oak Harbor resident was identified as a leading player in a multi-state drug conspiracy.

A former Oak Harbor resident was identified as a leading player in a multi-state drug conspiracy that is being dismantled by the federal government, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Bryce “Benji” Hill, 25, was a “key distributor of drugs in the Seattle area,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported. He was indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine and arrested earlier this year.

Hill was just 17 years old when he witnessed one of his friends shoot and kill another on a street in a quiet Oak Harbor neighborhood. As a result, he was the key witness in the 2016 trial of Christopher Malaga, who was convicted of murdering Adam Garcia.

That same year, Hill committed a drive-by shooting at a Clinton house in retaliation for being ripped off in a drug deal. He was convicted the following year.

The Justice Department reported that the federal case against Hill is part of a larger inquiry by Homeland Security Investigation that began in 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has so far resulted in charges against 60 people, as well as the seizure of more than 673 pounds of fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills, over 400 pounds of methamphetamine and 47 firearms.

The case evolved into a wiretap investigation in 2022, when Hill was identified as a key distributor in the Seattle area; he and his associates traveled between Arizona and Seattle, “bringing in drugs and taking drug proceeds back to conspirators in Phoenix,” according to the Justice Department.

“Hill led a cell that was selling many hundreds of thousands of dangerous fentanyl pills, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – likely well over $1 million over even a short period of time – while heavily armed,” according to a memorandum in support of detention.

In addition, a man identified as a current Oak Harbor resident, 37-year-old Shaunyae Allen, was one of seven people indicted in Seattle for allegedly conspiring with Hill in the drug distribution scheme, the Justice Department reported.

Allen is also known to law enforcement on North Whidbey. In 2016, he was convicted of assault in the third degree for shooting a man in the chest outside an Oak Harbor bar. Four years prior, he was convicted of assault charges in separate Oak Harbor cases in which he pointed a gun at a woman and slashed a man’s throat with a beer bottle.

A grand jury in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Pennsylvania indicted Hill on Dec. 20, 2022 with participating in a controlled substance conspiracy. Hill was arrested in Seattle on Jan. 11.

The Justice Department reported that investigators served search warrants on residences in Seattle associated with Hill. They seized five firearms, including a modified fully automatic pistol with an extended magazine. At his apartment, where he was arrested, investigators seized 27 kilos of fentanyl pills that were still in suitcases as well as more than $387,000 in cash.

On March 2, federal agents arrested Allen and six other people accused of conspiring with Hill. Three people were arrested in Arizona and four arrested in Seattle. They are being detained at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, pending future hearings.

In the Western District of Washington, the investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigation with assistance from the FBI, DEA and ATF. In Pennsylvania, the investigation is being led by Homeland Security Investigation and the FBI.

“Our federal partnerships once again have proven invaluable in defeating these organizations and holding their members accountable. According to DEA labs, six out of 10 fake pills contain a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl. With the seizure in one Seattle apartment, our partnerships saved 162,000 lives,” said Jacob D. Galvan, acting special agent in charge of the DEA Seattle Field Division.