Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

60 Charged in San Diego-based Sinaloa Cartel Meth Investigation

"El Choclo" for Borderland Beat

Some of 90 guns seized from a methamphetamine distribution network, on display at DEA San Diego on June 29, 2021. (Kristina Davis: The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman announced charges Tuesday afternoon against 60 alleged local members of a San Diego-based methamphetamine ring accused of working for a distribution network for the notorious Sinaloa Cartel.

Grossman was joined at 2 p.m. by officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), San Diego County Sheriff's Department and others for a news conference, which was held at the DEA's office on Viewridge Avenue.

The members of law enforcement at the news conference were flanked by two tables bristling with firearms of all types, as well as boxes at their feet bearing more weapons.

Grossman described Operation Crystal Shielf as a "multi-jurisdictional investigation targeting a sophisticated San Diego-based network used by the Sinaloa Cartel to distribute methamphetamine throughout the United States and to smuggle drug proceeds back into Southern California."

The "massive" San Diego network moved "tons" of meth around the nation, including to Hawaii, Arizona, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, as well as to Australia and New Zealand, Grossman said.

The drug dealers moved the narcotics around the country utilizing various means, including FedEx and UPS, according to investigators. The members of the ring will face firearm, money-laundering and drug-distribution charges. Grossman said law enforcement has seized more than 200 pounds of methamphetamine, 90 firearms and more than $200,000 during the investigation.

Several firearms and baggies of meth seized as part of a DEA investigation into a meth distribution network in San Diego are on display. (Kristina Davis/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
So far, 44 of the 60 defendants are already in state or federal custody, the prosecutor said.

"Distribution networks like this one are the arms of violent cartels, reaching out into our communities," Grossman said.

"They're also supplying a deadly stream of methamphetamine and other deadly drugs."

"San Diego is one of nine major transportation-hub cities identified under DEA's Operation Crystal Shield," said John Callery, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s San Diego Field Division.

"Together, these cities account for about 75% of all methamphetamine traffic within the United States." Callery said that the targets of Operation Crystal Shield were purchasing over 100 pounds of meth a week, "which is an enormous amount for any city in the United States, Callery said.

Ryan Korner, who is the Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office, described how the criminal moved the money across international borders.

"From the evidence gathered in this case, the IRS ... and our law-enforcement partners were able to identify the mechanics of the money-laundering organization," Korner said at the news conference.

"One method utilized was moving tens of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds to the network's leaders via Paypal, Zelle, Venmo and Cash App accounts, in addition to shipping bulk cash." Grossman said that Assistant U.S. Attorney and Matthew J. Sutton will be one of the lead prosecutors on the case.

"The defendants in this case used cars and motorcycles with hidden compartments, they used trains, commercial airlines, the U.S. mail and commercial delivery services like FedEx and UPS to deliver their deadly methamphetamine. To protect their illegal operations, the defendants ... used encrypted communications services to communicate with each other. That is, until today."

San Diego property that US authorities searched. Description: "The residence ... is a single story family residence, with cream stucco exterior with white trim with gray asphalt shingle roof". Image was released by the US Department of Justice in the search warrant document (see sources below).

Sutton said that the lead defendant in the case, Reyes Espinoza, was the one with the alleged ties to the Sinaloa Cartel and was the main supplier and served as a conduit, the main source of supply for the meth ring, responsible for importing hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine into San Diego every week.

Espinoza lived in San Diego and also had a residence in Minnesota, which has been seized as part of the investigation. Earlier this month, a man who allegedly laundered drug money for the Sinaloa Cartel was arraigned in San Diego federal court on conspiracy charges.

Juan Manuel Alvarez-Inzunza (AKA Rey Midas), 39, was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2015, and charged with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments and conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and methamphetamine.

He was previously designated under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act for allegedly laundering money for top cartel leaders, including Joaquin "El Chapo'' Guzman Loera, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Summary of Charges
  • Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)
  • Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1) and (h))
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C., § 841(a)(1))
  • Importation of Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. §§ 952 and 960)
  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)

Maximum Penalties
For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life imprisonment, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release.

For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

For the firearms charges, term of custody up to 10 years imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine.

Operation Crystal Shield - 60 Defendants (Sinaloa Cartel) by MX on Scribd


  1. For the guy that said drugs are only consumed by Americans, and the cartels would disappear, once USA stopped using drugs, well if you read this article carefully, it will show you the other foreign countries it distributes.

    1. A lot more money selling drugs outside of the North American continent... Europe, Oceania, etc. That's where the money is. The margins are crazy.

    2. True, Europe is another important booming market for shipping. And also Africa, from where it reaches asian countries.


    3. I think new zealand has the highest prices- then oz- but these guys are FUCKED- they going down for life most likely. All you need to catch some serious time with meth, is 50 grams. Which is nothing. And if they hit you with that conspiracy also, bye bye- your outta here.

      Where i leve, meth isnt popular. Its hardly here- but i saw someone say the other day that when he was dealing , meth was 1000/lb/- and he said hed never pay over 1500-

      My question is, where is the money in meth if its so cheap?? Seems like way to much risk for little in return.

    4. The money is them selling a tenth or twentieth of a gram for 20 bucks

    5. 2:22 Doesn't change the fact the USA is the top consumer.

    6. @mosluggo the profit is on the bust down.. say a lb is 1000 right. Say You break an oz down and sell it in 20s you make 300 off each 8ball .. theres 8 8balls in an oz so just on one oz you make over 2,000 and just just on your first oz . So thats where you make some serious money And thats just hypothetical speaking ­čĄú­čĄú

    7. No ones paying 85 for a g in your hypothetical hustling. A ball maybe for 85. G goes for 20-40 max

    8. 5:31 your hard headed big time. It's about where drugs go all over not just US, read carefully.

  2. Once they stopped using drugs LMAO... They're the most medicated country in the world... USA loves tjoer drugs... Prescription or illegal drugs...

    Not that I'm one that blames American consumption but drug use just keeps increasing...just the facts

    1. You are already stating the facts, delite just the facts, you remind me of the just saying kid.

    2. Si se├▒or! Last thing I want is to be bunched up with just saying kid, cap locks kid and emoji know what I mean?

    3. @3:47 it's DELETE

    4. Calmado 8:01... Leave grammatical error kid alone!

  3. Good shot that sten gun is a full auto real deal, as I have never seen any semi auto sten guns, possibly a World War Two relic found in some meth dealers house.

  4. I wonder if this is Flacos from Tijuana‘s crew. He operates in the San Diego area

  5. Might be El Toro and his crew. They are well known around San Diego. They are rumored to wear black tank tops and pink shorts at all times. I see them at Starbucks.

    1. Back in the 90s-2000s I knew numerous longhaul truckdrivers who would literally put it in their coffee (Strongbrew or Trucker's coffee)

    2. El mentado Toro. Hijo no reconocido del Mayo.

  6. Good thing they have those Caution Firearms tags. Someone might get hurt.

  7. Too much SNITCHING in CDS
    I wonder who it was this TIME..
    That's way TOO many PEOPLE..
    El Rey Midas?

  8. Sinaloenses poisoning the street with this meth. Glad they were taken down. They should be labeled terrorists.


  10. I Am very Happy! I get a warm and fu┼╝zy feeling inside,.when I hear of big busts like this one Way to go Law Enforcement and THANK YOU
    now put them all in jail and throw away the keys Please ..

  11. Word is that there won’t be a trial. They already cut deals and sang like juan Gabriel. No offense to Ju├írez!

  12. These dolts buy the worst firearms! every gun pic on BB looks like the thing was built by the people at Hasbro! Its time to stop shopping at Amazen and hire some real armorers!!

  13. Out of those 60 arrested at least 40-45 are going to snitch.The other 15-20 were the informants that brought everyone down.


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