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30 People Linked to Two Southern California Drug Transportation Networks Indicted on Federal Narcotics Charges
Rings allegedly smuggled drugs into U.S. in hidden compartments

AUG 21 (LOS ANGELES) - Thirty alleged members of two drug trafficking organizations that operated across Southern California have been indicted on federal narcotics charges following an investigation into the importation of cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico into the United States.

The indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on August 8, was unsealed this morning after law enforcement authorities arrested seven defendants named in the indictment.

The indictment is the result of a 20-month investigation involving federal wiretaps and conducted under the auspices of the Southern California Drug Task Force/High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force. The investigation, which was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, was called Operation “Mountain Top” and charges many of the defendants in conspiracies to distribute narcotics and to import drugs from Mexico.

During the course of Operation Mountain Top, authorities seized approximately 92 pounds of methamphetamine and 50 kilograms of cocaine.

The indictment names 30 defendants, some of whom have not been completely identified (hence, some are known as “FNU” or “LNU” – First/Last Name Unknown).The defendants are:

  • Nicolas Santana Zuniga, 43, of Mexico, who allegedly operated one of the drug transportation rings;
  • Mayra Zarate Ruelas, 37, of Mexico, who allegedly assisted Zuniga;
  • Raul Cervera, of Mexico, who allegedly operated the second drug transportation network;
  • Marco Antonio Quiroga, 51, of Mexico, who allegedly assisted Cervera by storing narcotics smuggled from Mexico;
  • Karine Elizabeth Barajas, 35, of Loma Linda, who allegedly smuggled narcotics into the United States for Zuniga’s network and who was arrested this morning;
  • Luis Mendiaz Deniz, 57, of Mira Loma, who allegedly assisted Zuniga by receiving and delivering narcotics smuggled from Mexico and who was arrested this morning;
  • David Lopez Hernandez, 28, of Loma Linda, who allegedly transported smuggled narcotics for Zuniga’s network and who was arrested this morning;
  • FNU LNU, known as “Pajaro,” a Mexico-based drug trafficker who allegedly used both Zuniga’s and Cervera’s networks to smuggle narcotics into the U.S.;
  • Hipolito Gutierrez Nunez, 45, of Mexico, a Mexico-based drug trafficker who allegedly used Zuniga’s network to smuggle narcotics into the U.S.;
  • FNU LNU, aka “Benito,” of Mexico, a Mexico-based drug trafficker who allegedly used Zuniga’s network to smuggle narcotics into the U.S.;
  • Elias LNU, of Mexico, a Mexico-based drug trafficker who allegedly used Cervera’s network to smuggle narcotics into the U.S.;
  • FNU LNU, known as “Polo,” of Mexico, a Mexico-based drug trafficker who allegedly used Cervera’s network to smuggle narcotics into the U.S.;
  • Joel LNU, of Mexico, a Mexico-based drug trafficker who allegedly used Cervera’s network to smuggle narcotics into the U.S.;
  • Idania LNU, aka “Guera,” of Mexico, a Mexico-based drug trafficker who allegedly used Zuniga’s network to smuggle narcotics into the U.S.;
  • Joel Olivares, of Mexico, a Mexico-based drug trafficker who allegedly used Zuniga’s network to smuggle narcotics into the U.S.;
  • Octavio LNU, of Mexico, who allegedly assisted Cervera by coordinating the transportation of smuggled drugs to transporters;
  • David LNU, of Mexico, who allegedly assisted Cervera by coordinating the transportation of smuggled drugs to transporters;
  • Jose Cruz Gonzalez-Cordova, 55, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Zuniga’s network;
  • Rosa Venia Felix, 44, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Zuniga’s network;
  • Marcelino Meza Zamora, 56, of Los Angeles, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Zuniga’s network;
  • Julio Cesar Velazquez, 33, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Zuniga’s network;
  • Ladis Anthony Martinez, 25, of San Bernardino, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Zuniga’s network and who was arrested this morning;
  • Carlos Alfonso Marroquin-Flores, 35, of Mexico, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Cervera’s network and who was arrested this morning as he crossed the international border into the United States;
  • Jose Ricardo Garcia Vazquez, 26, of Mexico, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Cervera’s organization;
  • Mayra Alejandra Sandoval, 23, of Long Beach, who allegedly assisted a drug transporter working for Zuniga’s network and who was arrested this morning;
  • Cristian Ruben Ayala, 26, of Mexico, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Cervera’s network;
  • Edgar Antonio Luna Hernandez, 32, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Cervera’s network;
  • Victor Manuel Munoz, 30, of Hawaiian Gardens, who allegedly assisted Hernandez by storing smuggled drugs in his residence and who was arrested this morning;
  • Scott Daniel Mercado, 21, San Diego, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Cervera’s network; and
    Bonny Santos Portillo, 25, who is believed to be a resident of San Diego, who allegedly transported smuggled drugs for Cervera’s network.

Those arrested this morning will be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles (although Marroquin-Flores will make his first court appearance this afternoon in San Diego).

If they are convicted of the charges in the indictment, each defendant would face a statutory maximum penalty of life in federal prison.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Operation Mountain Top is the result of an investigation by the FBI, the DEA, and the Torrance Police Department. A number of agencies affiliated with HIDTA assisted in today’s law enforcement operations, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Los Angeles Police Department.


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