FEDS ANNOUNCE MASSIVE TAKEDOWN OF EAST COUNTY DRUG TRAFFICKING NETWORKS TIED TO SINALOA CARTEL

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version Share this

85 defendants charged for distributing methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl

East County News Service

September 19, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) -- 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. Authorities are searching for 38 defendants; the rest are in state or federal custody, the U.S. Department of Justice in San Diego announced.

In the coordinated takedown that began early this morning, investigators executed over a dozen search warrants, seizing drugs and two firearms. 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  by Juan Carlos Ochoa, Rene Valdez Jr., Ramon Castillo, Michael Wright, Alfonso Arroya, Douglas Bowen, Samuel Becerra, and Javier Vergara. 

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, these affiliated networks supplied multi-kilogram quantities of controlled substances (primarily methamphetamine and heroin but also fentanyl) to dozens of sub-distributors 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 utilized various encrypted communication services like Signal and WhatsApp to communicate among themselves. Law enforcement penetrated this network with 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.

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 Indictment - 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.


Error message

Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.