Thursday, September 26, 2019

"Operation Backpack": Feds Takedown Sinaloa Cartel Network in SoCal

Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: SDUT and USDOJ

A year-long investigation led to 85 people being charged with narcotics and money laundering, by federal law enforcement authorities.

Federal authorities in San Diego said Thursday they had broken up a large network of drug dealers linked to the Sinaloa cartel that peddled methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl from East County to points across the nation.

At a news conference at the local office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, officials said 85 people had been indicted for their roles in eight separate drug importation and distribution groups. On Thursday federal and local law enforcement fanned out and arrested 47 of the 85 defendants across southern California and reaching into Colorado and as far north as Alaska.



The raids and arrests capped a year-long investigation that started with busts of small-time, street-level drug dealers and grew into a sweeping probe that involved a 10-month federal wiretap, dozens of search warrants and undercover agents, said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Mazza.

In addition to the drug charges, the indictments include money laundering charges aimed at what was described as the tens of thousands of dollars in bulk cash that was collected after the sales. Agents with the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division traced the funds in their role as part of the large task force that investigated the drug organizations.

Mazza said the probe, dubbed “Operation Backpack,” was one of the most significant drug investigations in the San Diego area in recent years.

The eight indictments unsealed Thursday shed little light on the details of drug networks operations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Sutton, the lead prosecutor on the case, said the drug gangs received smuggled narcotics from Mexico, then distributed them to suppliers in the state and across the country.

They were also responsible for shipping back the cash from the sales, most of it smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico in large bulk cash shipments, into the hands of Sinaloa-cartel-connected traffickers in Mexico.

Sutton said the indictments and arrests are “a critical strike against the Sinaloa cartel.”

During the course of the investigation agents seized 175 pounds of drugs, firearms and at least $50,000 in cash. The arrests on Thursday added another four pounds of methamphetamine and two guns to that total.

While the eight networks operated independently, Sutton said that they were also affiliated with each other in some ways, sharing suppliers and even some customers for the drugs, and working collaboratively in some aspects of their operations.

San Diego County has long been a shipment point for illegal drugs smuggled into the country from Mexico and Central and South America. DEA Agent Steven Woodland said at the news conference that a little more than a decade ago a pound of methamphetamine sold for about $17,000.

But since then the Sinaloa cartel, which by 2010 had wrested control of the lucrative Tijuana smuggling plaza after the demise of the Arellano-Félix drug trafficking organization, has flooded the market to the point where the same amount of the drug sells for about $1,200, Woodland said.

Most of the 47 people arrested Thursday are due to appear in federal court in downtown San Diego Friday afternoon.
                                                              
San Diego: Eight indictments were unsealed today in San Diego federal court charging 85 members of drug distribution networks linked to the Sinaloa Cartel, with federal drug trafficking, money laundering and firearms offenses.

During the coordinated takedown that began early this morning, investigators executed over a dozen search warrants and seized approximately four pounds of methamphetamine and two firearms. As of today at 1 p.m., 47 of the 85 defendants are either in federal or state custody. Authorities are continuing to search for 38 defendants. Many of the defendants are scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison H. Goddard at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

According to the indictments and other publicly filed court documents, this year-long investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service targeted multiple San Diego-based drug distribution and money laundering networks led respectively by Juan Carlos OCHOA, Rene VALDEZ Jr., Ramon CASTILLO, Michael WRIGHT, Alfonso ARROYO, Douglas BOWEN, Samuel BECERRA, and Javier VERGARA. These affiliated networks supplied multi-kilogram quantities of controlled substances (primarily methamphetamine and heroin but also fentanyl) to dozens of subdistributors located throughout Southern California. These networks were also responsible for laundering tens of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds back to Sinaloa Cartel-associated drug traffickers in Mexico. During this investigation, agents coordinated seizures of narcotics and drug proceeds throughout San Diego County and across the United States.

To avoid detection by law enforcement, the defendants also utilized various encrypted communication services like Signal and WhatsApp to communicate among themselves. Despite their sophisticated efforts, law enforcement penetrated this network with a variety of investigative techniques, including physical surveillance, obtaining phone records, financial documents, tracking warrants on telephones and vehicles, and undercover agents. Over the course of the investigation, agents obtained dozens of search warrants and conducted a 10-month-long federal wiretap to track the communications and the location of the defendants. In conjunction with the wiretaps, agents ultimately seized approximately 175 pounds of methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl tied to these networks, approximately $50,000 in cash, multiple firearms, and a 2020 Cadillac Escalade (valued at over $115,000).  

“Today we sent a message to drug traffickers in our community. If you sell drugs in San Diego, we will find you and prosecute you to the full extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “I want to congratulate the outstanding federal, state, and local law enforcement cooperation that has resulted in this highly successful investigation. This case represents yet another critical strike against the Sinaloa Cartel and its U.S.-based networks.”

“Today’s operation was about community care taking,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers.  “We took criminals off the street in South County who were selling drugs and committing violent crimes - robberies - home invasions - identity theft - fraud - and other property crimes.  The void left is an opportunity for the communities in South County to exhale and breathe in fresh air.  Freedom is priceless.  Today South County is free to live without a criminal undertone which eroded their daily quality of life.”

“A significant portion of the indictments unsealed today are alleged money laundering conspiracy violations and the asset forfeiture allegations,” stated Assistant Special Agent in Charge Johnathan Smith.  “Multiple defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering violations, a charge which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20-years imprisonment.  These are serious crimes that come with serious time.”

This case was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Narcotics Task Force (NTF) and the Internal Revenue Service. The NTF is a DEA-led task force comprised of federal and local law enforcement from the DEA, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSD), the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), United States Border Patrol (USBP), and the San Diego County Probation Office. Agents and officers from the United States Marshals Service, United States Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons also provided vital assistance for the investigation. Attorneys from the Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations, Electronic Surveillance Unit, likewise provided critical work as part of the investigative team.

This case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

The United States is represented in court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew J. Sutton, and Mario J. Peia.

The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Defendant Information 

19-cr-3624-CAB Indictment - Click HERE

Defendants                                                                                     Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3624-CAB

Defendant Number

Name

Hometown

1

Juan Carlos Ochoa   El Cajon, CA

2

Belinda Maria Menke  El Cajon, CA

3

Oscar Clemente-Perez  El Cajon, CA

4

Anton Dockery    El Cajon, CA

5

Amira Novelo-Torres  Tijuana, MX

6

Guillermo Castellano     El Cajon, CA

7

Monica Alcantar   El Cajon, CA

8

Alberto Frayre     Chula Vista, CA

9

Ivan Rodriguez     El Cajon, CA

10

Brian Perin     San Diego, CA

11

Edward DiBartola     San Diego, CA

12

Juanita Ortiz     El Cajon, CA

13

Lorena Torres   El Cajon, CA

14

Marcus Dewayne Caldwell    San Diego, CA

15

Candace Marie Spears     San Diego, CA

16

Eduardo Lerma     El Cajon, CA

17

Gene Fitzgerald     San Diego, CA

18

Melissa Young    San Diego, CA

19

Jessie Avina     El Cajon, CA

Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

19-cr-3625-CAB Indictment - Click HERE

Defendants                                                                                     Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3625-CAB

Defendant Number

Name

Hometown

1

Alfonso Arroyo

San Diego, CA

2

James Anthony Tate

San Diego, CA

3

Alice Chairez

San Diego, CA

4

Zena Marie Gonzalez

San Diego, CA

5

Steven Geiss

San Diego, CA

6

Tommy Diego Duenas

San Diego, CA

7

Josephina Hernandez

San Diego, CA

8

Kajlid Jafar Wilks

San Diego, CA

Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

19-cr-3626-CAB Indictment - Click HERE

Defendants                                                                                     Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3626-CAB

Defendant Number

Name

Hometown

1

Samuel Becerra

San Diego, CA

2

Gabrielle Logue

San Diego, CA

3

Kelly Daniels

San Diego, CA

4

Larry Meisner

San Diego, CA

5

Walter Kuttner

Spring Valley, CA

6

Kelly Jean Kelly

San Diego, CA

7

Kurt Roiz

San Diego, CA

8

Rodolfo Andrade

Chula Vista, CA

9

Alfredo Gomez

San Diego, CA

Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

19-cr-3627-CAB Inictment - Click HERE

Defendants                                                                                     Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3627-CAB

Defendant Number

Name

Hometown

1

Douglas Bowen

San Diego, CA

2

Erick Cifuentes

San Diego, CA

3

John Bordwell Jr.

San Diego, CA

4

Raya Jaye Kimball

San Diego, CA

5

Stephen Robert Chavez

San Diego, CA

6

Robert David Houser

San Diego, CA

7

Justin Scott Baker

San Diego, CA

8

Janette Lee Taylor

San Diego, CA

9

Emilio Vanegas

San Diego, CA

10

Christopher Nobis

San Diego, CA

11

Maximino Padilla

San Diego, CA

12

Erika Marlene Ramirez-Ramirez

San Diego, CA

13

Heaven Rapp

San Diego, CA

14

Shelley Marie Cobb

San Diego, CA

15

Sarrah Jean Kent

San Diego, CA

16

David Hopkins

San Diego, CA

17

Matthew Bogan

San Diego, CA

18

Emily Uscanga

San Diego, CA

19

Michael Bowen

Colorado Springs, CA

20

Edson Garcia

San Diego, CA

21

Brandon Brooks

San Diego, CA

22

Raheem Jackson

San Diego, CA

23

Heather Kieley

San Diego, CA

24

Yvette Romero

San Diego, CA

25

Bobby Lee Crisp

San Diego, CA

26

Dario Navarro

San Diego, CA

Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1))

Importation of a Controlled Substance (21 U.S.C. §§ 952, 960 and 963)

Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

19-cr-3628-CAB Indictment - Click HERE

Defendants                                                                                     Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3628-CAB

Defendant Number

Name

Hometown

1

Ramon Castillo

San Diego, CA

2

Samuel Jones

San Diego, CA

3

Julio Noriega

San Diego, CA

4

Johanna Trujillo

San Diego, CA

Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

19-cr-3629-CAB Indictment - Click HERE

Defendants                                                                                     Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3629-CAB

Defendant Number

Name

Hometown

1

Rene Valdez Jr.

San Diego, CA

2

Araceli S. Lomeli

San Diego, CA

3

David Valdez

San Diego, CA

4

Robert Tate Allen

San Diego, CA

5

Sergio Eduardo Gutierrez Martinez

Tijuana, MX

6

Milton Perez Cruz

Tijuana, MX

Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

19-cr-3630-CAB Indictment - Click HERE

Defendants                                                                                     Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3630-CAB

Defendant Number

Name

Hometown

1

Javier Vergara

San Diego, CA

2

Raul Alonso Varela-Ruiz

San Diego, CA

3

Michelangelo Becerra

San Diego, CA

4

Candice Harrington

San Diego, CA

5

Amanda Bitticks

San Diego, CA

6

Eduardo Pardo

San Diego, CA

7

Rose Velasquez

San Diego, CA

Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

19-cr-3631-CAB Indictment - Click HERE

Defendants                                                                                     Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3631-CAB

Defendant Number

Name

Hometown

1

Michael Wright

San Diego, CA

2

Rhiannon Hiller

San Diego, CA

3

Michael Branch

San Diego, CA

4

Bryan Carlton

San Diego, CA

5

Charles Moore

San Diego, CA

6

Sara Syverson

San Diego, CA

Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

AGENCIES:

Drug Enforcement Administration, Narcotics Task Force

Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

United States Marshals Service

United States Border Patrol

United States Secret Service

United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Federal Bureau of Prisons

San Diego Police Department

El Cajon Police Department

Chula Vista Police Department

San Diego County Probation Office

San Diego County District Attorney’s Office

Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces

Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado

USAO - California, Southern
Contact: 
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew J. Sutton (619) 546-8941 and Mario Peia (619) 546-9706
Press Release Number:  CAS19-0919_Gang Press Conference

31 comments:

  1. They need to be charged with funding a terrorist group.

    ReplyDelete
  2. 179 lbs.? what a joke
    the snitchaloans won't even feel a pinch!
    1 year worth of work by how many feds?
    i want my tax dollars back!
    pick your battles
    not worth it folks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. War on drugs is not worth it... decriminalize them... end free health care for drug users... let them eliminate themselves... yes thats harsh but we would save millions and could focus more on other crimes

      Delete
    2. how many feds? how many local law enforcement? lets say about 40 per case. low balling(from personal experience). thats about 40 families the war on drugs is paying for a mortgage, car notes, food, trips. now you have individuals in the prison system where more govt get to work. say for that year the total expense for salary personnel was about 2,800,000. plus now court fees which im not sure how much a case costs. youre right to want your tax money back. but for all, in the eyes of the govt, they arent losing at all, theyre winning big time on the falling out of lesser dumb individuals who chose the wrong path.

      Delete
  3. Despite being a backstabbing two faced rat, el
    Chapo at least had all his stuff In order. Seems like snitchaloas are losing control of everything.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm in my late 30's and use to move work in my early 20's and did time for it.. but it was only weed sometimes some yay but not a whole lot, anyways back in those days I was down for all but I despise these next level drug hustlers, this isn't for recreational use anymore this is intentionally to fuk you up! kinda like the cartels.. these guys use to be bad ass and made you feel important or people saw you as important for having relation with these people but now with all these wars they've all shown their true colors.. they're all pieces of shit so fuk them. Good post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad u realized that life isnt that great

      Delete
    2. @8:46 i agree with u. I too did the same thing and spend time, and your rite about them making u feel important and also family members and friends would show a lot of respect. But the game has definitely changed. No more respect and ya fuck these fools.They dont give a fuck about no one...G.C.

      Delete
  5. Operation take out the trash

    ReplyDelete
  6. This ain't Mexico folksūüôĄ☹

    ReplyDelete
  7. $1200 a pound??? Is that accurate??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They can go for less than half of that

      Delete
    2. around 900-1100 n la

      Delete
  8. What's with these names for the operations? Following Backpack...Operation Dora, The Explorer.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Two years! Out in six months.
    Funny how drug traffickers are allowed to operate until the money is in, that is when critical arrests are carried out with one main goal, get the money! LOL...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't recall the source, but I was reading about drug trafficking in Boston. Drug dealers who are caught without any big bucks to forfeit are in bad, bad trouble.

      Delete
    2. 755 they have to develop legal case, to stack up evidence so they can serve more time. Judges are the ones that give the sentence, not you lol.

      Delete
    3. 10:23 I am not giving sentence, sugar, I am saying what HAPPENS.
      Also, that instead of stacking evidence, most LEOS do is let the money stack up before confiscating all they can, in this case not worth the time and arrests and personnel involved, the man/hours expense do not justify the case from any perspective.

      Delete
  10. Congrats to law enforcement, 47 persons arrested and more to come.
    Viva America!

    ReplyDelete
  11. All these guys are low level dealers. The BIG bosses are the ones sending and receiving tons of drugs via airplanes, boats and even submarines into the country. These arrest serve no real purpose other than publicity for law enforcement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Be happy they got arrested, not to worry more are on the wanted list.

      Delete
    2. Every single arrest serves a purpose to the United States government they get to throw our tax money through a revolving door that ends up in some billionaires pocket

      Delete
  12. “Major strike against the Sinaloa Cartel”....lol. $50k was seized....I mean wow, $50k. I’m sure that put a huge dent in their operation....lmao. The DEA needs to stop smoking what they found! Nothing but j-cats in the DEA. No one cares about the $50k loss.

    ReplyDelete
  13. all those people and only 50k hmmmm something is doesnt seem right

    ReplyDelete
  14. Small dent, not a big one. These couriers can be replaced overnight. If any one of the arrested spends more than a year or two in federal prison I would be shocked. Look for many plea deals and not many, if any trials by jury. It's all a joke. If they meant to clean it up the idiots would be executed on the spot of arrest.

    ReplyDelete
  15. People think encryption is full proof.... at a time it was but since the silk road bust FBI has a back door to override tor and vpi anonymity and although they wont go after ordering an 8 ball from sweden .... terrorists and child porn freaks are always taken down quickly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 6:36 Jeff Epstein took a long time to bring down, and then he was silenced forever while under protective custody in a New York prison with no escorts to watch over him, he got killed before he spilled some secrets of his trade to the wrong prosecutor.

      Delete
  16. If I was from Sinaloa I'd be inberesed.tomatoes n drugs is all they known for.

    ReplyDelete

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