News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: January 09, 2012
Contact: Will Taylor
Number: 312-886-2597

Last of 27 Defendants Sentenced in Minnesota Cocaine and Methamphetamine Distribution Ring
“Operation Malverde” had ties to the Gulf cartel

JAN 09 - (Minneapolis, Minn.) – In federal court on January 6, 2012, a 33-year-old Fairbault man was sentenced in connection with a Mexican-based drug cartel that distributed methamphetamine and cocaine throughout Minnesota from 2005 through 2009. United States District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen sentenced Oscar Damian Limon to three years of probation on one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Limon, who was indicted along with 26 co-defendants on April 21, 2009, pleaded guilty on September 11, 2009. At the direction of drug kingpin Roberto Guadalupe Aleman, the members of this conspiracy imported hundreds of kilograms of cocaine into the U.S. from Mexico, and then transported the cocaine from the Texas-Mexico border into the State of Minnesota for distribution and resale.

Limon’s 26 co-defendants have pled guilty. All of them have now been sentenced. Nineteen of the co-defendants were convicted of and sentenced for cocaine trafficking charges:

- Roberto Guadalupe Aleman, 31, of Hidalgo, TX – 210 months on September 12, 2011
- Maria Isabel Aleman, 64, of Hidalgo, TX – 140 months on August 9, 2011
- Juan Fidel Aleman, 34, of Swanville, MN – 120 months on June 24, 2011
- Daniel Armando Aleman, 33, of Hidalgo, TX – 132 months on May 2, 2011
- Maria Almaguer, 43, of Cold Spring, MN – 24 months on May 19, 2011
- Emily Judith Balderas, 29, of McAllen, TX – 36 months on April 26, 2011
- Andres Guzman Fegaroa, 27, of Mission, TX – 18 months on April 15, 2011
- Luiz Gerardo Flores, 30, of St. Paul, MN – 22 months on May 18, 2011
- Josue Azahael Garza, 22, of Mission, TX – 50 months on April 28, 2011
- Ernesto Jimenez Guzman, 39, of Hidalgo, TX – 120 months on July 18, 2011
- David Paul Harlander, 57, of St. Joseph, MN – 24 months on May 25, 2011
- Carlos Alejandro Azham Martinez, 34, of Owatonna, MN – 30 months on May 24, 2011
- Esaulo Miranda, 39, of Hidalgo, TX – 240 months on April 18, 2011
- Refugio Hernandez Muniz, 54, of Donnelly, MN – 60 months on March 16, 2011
- Nicolas Lara Munoz, 51, of Burnsville, MN – 75 months on April 26, 2011
- Aercelia Reyes, 40, of McAllen, TX – 30 months on May 25, 2011
- Maria Luisa Stay, 31, of Princeton, MN – 18 months on May 18, 2011
- Rodolfo Tello-Munoz, 47, of Brooklyn Park, MN – 160 months on August 3, 2011
- Bartolo Enrique Vega, Jr., 43, of Owatonna, MN – 30 months on April 28, 2011
- Jesus Villeanueva, 38, of Mission, TX – 120 months on April 22, 2011

In their respective plea agreements, the 19 co-defendants admitted conspiring to distribute between 500 grams and 150 kilograms of cocaine, as well as acquiring, packaging, preparing, and transporting cocaine, distributing it to customers, and collecting cash. In addition, several co-defendants admitted making structured cash deposits of drug-trafficking proceeds. Intercepted telephone communications during the investigation revealed that the leaders of the Aleman Drug Trafficking Organization purchased cocaine directly from the Gulf Cartel, a Mexican-based drug-trafficking organization that distributes cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin. The Gulf Cartel is a chief rival of the Sinaloa Cartel, another major Mexican-based drug trafficking organization.

Following’s today’s sentencing, Dan Moren, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Minneapolis-St. Paul Field Office, said, “Minnesota may be well over a thousand miles from the Mexican border, while the limbs of the Gulf Cartel still reached into our state to deliver drug shipments through the illegal actions of these convicted defendants. Through joint law enforcement and prosecutorial efforts, federal and local agencies were able to investigate and methodically dissect the organization, holding the defendants accountable for infecting our communities with methamphetamine and cocaine.”

“The contraband narcotics economy is one of death, violence, and artificial wealth,” said Bernard J. Zapor, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ St. Paul Field Office. “We commend the teamwork of the officers and agents involved in stopping its expansion here.”

The remaining six co-defendants have been sentenced on one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering:

- Martinez Jimenez, 35, of North Freedom, WI – 33 months on March 10, 2011
- Miriam Leal, 32, of Mission, TX – three years of probation on April 11, 2011
- Alejandro Paz, 36, of Hidalgo, TX – 37 months on March 16, 2011
- Rafael Quintanilla, 39, of Hidalgo, TX – 46 months on May 23, 2011
- Ricardo Quintanilla, 39, of Hidalgo, TX – 40 months on April 26, 2011
- Luiz Manuel Roman, 39, of Hidalgo, TX – 15 months on March 11, 2011

In their respective plea agreements, these six co-defendants admitted conspiring to conduct structured financial transactions involving drug-trafficking proceeds.

In Minnesota, authorities executed search warrants at residences in Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Cold Spring, Saint Wendel Township, and St. Cloud. Seized during the investigation, known as Operation Malverde, were four firearms, 12 vehicles, cocaine, cash, and assorted drug paraphernalia. Additional search warrants were executed throughout the county of Hidalgo, Texas. Law enforcement officers also seized approximately $120,000 in drug-trafficking proceeds from the bank account of Maria Aleman.

According to a joint DEA-ATF search warrant affidavit, in April of 2008, authorities began investigating a drug-trafficking organization that involved Roberto Aleman. Police made numerous controlled purchases from and recorded telephone calls to and from members of the organization. During the course of the investigation, police seized more than $505,000 in four separate seizures, including one at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

During several seizures in Minnesota and Texas between July 7, 2008, and April 25, 2009, police seized more than 45 kilograms of cocaine from couriers and customers of the organization. The affidavit states that the organization was transporting approximately 10 to 30 kilograms of cocaine each month into the State of Minnesota for the duration of the conspiracy. In addition, federal law enforcement authorities traced the banking activity of several defendants, uncovering a complex web of structured cash deposits in Minnesota banks followed by withdrawals from Hidalgo area banks. These structured transactions totaled more than $3.7 million during the course of the three-year conspiracy.

This case was the result of an investigation by the DEA, the ATF, the IRS, the Central Minnesota Drug Gang Task Force, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Police Department, with assistance from the St. Paul Police Department, the St. Cloud Police Department, the Northwest Metro Task Force, the Minnesota State Patrol, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the South Central Drug Investigation Unit, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Duluth Police Department, and the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey M. Bryan and Christian S. Wilton, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

Parents and children are encouraged to educate themselves about the dangers of drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.JustThinkTwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.