DEC 12 (LOS ANGELES) – A multi-agency investigation into gang-related crime in the San Gabriel Valley has led to federal charges against 24 members and associates of Pasadena-based gangs and drug trafficking organizations in the San Gabriel and Antelope Valleys for their roles in a narcotics network in which methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin were supplied from Mexico and distributed widely in southern California. The announcement was made on behalf of multiple agencies participating in the San Gabriel Valley Safe Streets Task Force, to include the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Pasadena Police Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles returned three indictments on December 3, 2013 that were unsealed and charged the defendants with a variety of violations relative to the narcotics distribution networks.
Two of the defendants were already in custody prior to today's operation; two of the defendants were deported; three of the defendants are unidentified subjects; 12 defendants were arrested during this morning's operation; and five are considered fugitives. In addition, task force members executed 10 federal search warrants at locations throughout the region to seek evidence linked to Operation Rosebud.
Operation Rosebud targeted the street gang known as "Varrio Pasadena Rifa" (VPR) whose members are known to distribute large quantities of methamphetamine in the city of Pasadena and surrounding areas in the San Gabriel Valley. VPR operated through a network of suppliers that facilitated the delivery of pure methamphetamine from Mexico through southwest states and ultimately to local destinations. The task force seized more than 60 pounds of methamphetamine, heroin and powder cocaine from sources linked to the drug trafficking organization.
The Varrio Pasadena Rifa street gang is a violent, and one of Pasadena's oldest, street gangs, consisting of more than 50 documented gang members. VPR members are known to control their distribution of illegal narcotics through violence and intimidation. Varrio translates in English to "neighborhood," Pasadena relates to the City of Pasadena, and Rifa translates in English to "we rule," or "we are the best."
Early in the 18-month investigation, defendant Edwin Ayala was identified as a supplier of methamphetamine to VPR members, as well as members and associates of other area gangs. The task force investigation revealed that Ayala was being supplied with methamphetamine by defendant Jose Villa, also known as "Kex," and additional defendants who were allegedly supplying Villa, including defendant RELEASE OF NAME PENDING, who is believed to receive his supply of multiple pound quantities of methamphetamine from Sinaloa, Mexico.
Those charged in the federal indictments are listed below:
Amy Morales, 34, Lancaster, Arrested
Jennifer Elaine Beniche, 34, Rosamond, Arrested
Michelle Labrador, 36, Rosamond, Arrested
Horacio Godoy, 33, Rosamond, Arrested
Vidal Garcia, aka "Billy," 32, Lancaster,
RELEASE OF NAME PENDING, Fugitive
Rene Montenegro Martinez, aka "Lil Man," "Midget," 33, Palmdale, Arrested
Ricardo Garcia, Jr., aka "Grumpy," 21, Lancaster, Arrested
Jose Salvador Villa, 37, West Covina, Arrested
Dora Alicia Vasquez, aka "Dora Sanchez," 29, Pasadena, Arrested
Ernest Gabriel Alderette, aka "Ernie," "Turtle," 32, Pasadena, Arrested
Edwin Benjamin Ayala, aka "Dex," 34, Altadena, Arrested
RELEASE OF NAME PENDING, Fugitive
Francis Kolbjornsen, 29, Hawthorne, Arrested
Osvaldo Hernandez Limas, 39, Lancaster, Fugitive
Juan Carlos Garcia, 26, Norwalk, Fugitive
RELEASE OF NAME PENDING, Fugitive
Jose Daniel Rivera, aka "Clumsy", already in federal custody on unrelated charges
Unidentified Coconspirator, #145#, aka "Cousin"
Unidentified Coconspirator, "163", aka "Junior"
Unidentified Coconspirator, "2574"
Christopher Thomas Delgado, aka "Shorty," already in state custody on unrelated charges
Argenis Ariel Rosales, Deported
Jose Ramos Martinez, aka "Timido," Deported
"The Safe Streets Task Force in San Gabriel Valley is a perfect example of seamless collaboration among local and federal law enforcement, working toward the same goal," said Bill Lewis, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. "These indictments should send a message to street gangs who control neighborhoods with violence and deal drugs - in many cases to children - on the streets of Pasadena, Lancaster and throughout Los Angeles County."
During Operation Rosebud, the task force seized approximately 60.5 pounds of methamphetamine, 6 pounds of tar heroin and 5 pounds of powder cocaine from sources linked to the drug trafficking organizations operated by defendants RELEASE OF NAME PENDING and Villa. The estimated street value of the narcotics exceeds $2.5 million. The task force also seized four vehicles and approximately $40,000 in cash. Additional evidence, including items associated with methamphetamine production, was seized during today's search.
Pasadena Police Chief, Phillip L. Sanchez, said, "The Pasadena Police Department worked closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation/Safe Streets Team, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other regional law enforcement partners to bring this 18 month operation to a successful conclusion. Moreover, this investigation underscores the results of combined law enforcement efforts, arresting numerous predatory gang members and significantly impacting the distribution and sales of narcotics in the San Gabriel Valley and Lancaster Region."
One of the three indictments charges defendants Delgado; Godoy; Labrador; Garcia; Beniche; and Morales and alleges that defendant Delgado obtained narcotics from unindicted co-conspirators and arranged for its distribution in various areas, including Lancaster and Rosamond, California. Other defendants obtained narcotics from Delgado and further distributed it, stored it or delivered it to couriers, according to the indictment, while others communicated requests for narcotics, delivered money to suppliers, provided updates or removed drugs and other items from a stash location in order to avoid detection from law enforcement.
"Criminal street gangs have peddled drugs and violence in our neighborhoods for far too long," stated Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams. "The arrests made today will greatly reduce the ability of street gangs in Pasadena and the Antelope Valley to obtain dangerous drugs for distribution throughout our communities."
The second of three indictments charges defendants RELEASE OF NAME PENDING; Garcia; Rosales and unidentified co-conspirators charges defendant RELEASE OF NAME PENDING with obtaining methamphetamine from defendants Cousin, Junior and unindicted coconspirators and arrange for its distribution in southern California. Defendant RELEASE OF NAME PENDING would also arrange for the delivery of drug proceeds to couriers of defendants Cousin and Junior, according to the indictment. The indictment further alleges that defendant Garcia received narcotics from couriers of drug suppliers on behalf of RELEASE OF NAME PENDING and provided proceeds to couriers. Garcia also allegedly transported or stored the narcotics and picked up drug proceeds from customers. Defendant Rosales allegedly transported methamphetamine to customers of defendant Cousin, while others stored methamphetamine at a residence known as a "stash house."
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said, "The operation was a culmination of a two year long investigation by the San Gabriel Valley Safe Streets Gang Task Force, involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and the Pasadena Police Department. The success of the operation was a direct result of dedication and professionalism, as well as the cooperation between the participating agencies. The arrests will significantly impact the leadership of the gang, and their ability to distribute narcotics in Los Angeles County."
The third indictment charges defendants Villa; RELEASE OF NAME PENDING; RELEASE OF NAME PENDING; Garcia; Martinez; Ayala; Alderette; RELEASE OF NAME PENDING; Vazquez; Kolbjornsen; Limas; Martinez; Rivera; and unidentified co-conspirators and alleges that defendant Villa obtained methamphetamine from defendants RELEASE OF NAME PENDING, RELEASE OF NAME PENDING and Rivera, and arranged for its distribution in the Pasadena area.
Defendant RELEASE OF NAME PENDING allegedly obtained methamphetamine from defendants Garcia and an unidentified defendant and arrange for its delivery to Villa and his couriers in Southern California. Other defendants listed in the indictment are alleged to have obtained, distributed and/or delivered methamphetamine to other defendants, while others arranged meetings to conduct narcotics transactions. The indictment alleges that other defendants delivered cash to suppliers or picked up drug proceeds from customers, in addition to picking up methamphetamine from suppliers or delivering it to customers. Other defendants allegedly updated defendant Villa on the status of their drug trafficking activities and advised on where to conduct drug deals.
The three indictments outline a series of narcotics transactions in varying quantities and at varying prices negotiated by the defendants using coded language on phone and text conversations to disguise drug transactions.
The government is also pursuing forfeiture allegations in order to obtain property or proceeds obtained as a result of the alleged illegal activity.
During this morning's operation, seven minor children were removed by the Department of Children and Family Services from defendants' residences.
The federal defendants arrested today will have an appearance in United States District Court in Los Angeles. If convicted of the charges, most defendants face mandatory minimum sentences of at least five years, and some will face potential life sentences.
This case was investigated by the San Gabriel Valley Safe Streets Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Pasadena Police Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the FBI. Throughout this investigation and during today's operation, the task force received assistance from multiple law enforcement partners, including the Department of Child and Family Services; the Kern County Sheriff's Department; the Department of Child and Family Services; the United States Marshals Service; Los Angeles County Probation; and the Downey Police Department.
The defendants will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office in the Central District of California.
An indictment or criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.