News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 7, 2007
Contact: Dan Simmons
(858) 616-4166

20 Mexican Nationals Arrested in California for Meth Trafficking

JUN 7 -- United States Attorney Karen P. Hewitt announced that yesterday a federal grand jury sitting in San Diego handed up two indictments charging a total of twenty individuals with Conspiracy to Import and to Distribute Methamphetamine and Money Laundering offenses and seeking Criminal Forfeiture of illicit proceeds involved in the money laundering offenses. The investigation that resulted in the indictments targeted two major methamphetamine trafficking groups in San Diego.

According to the indictments, the alleged international drug trafficking organizations were responsible for smuggling large quantities of methamphetamine from Mexico to the San Diego area. The investigation involved months of court-authorized wire intercepts on a number of telephones used by the alleged drug traffickers, and hundreds of hours of surveillance. On May 17, 2007, agents executed 18 search warrants at locations throughout San Diego County, including residences located in Chula Vista, National City, Vista, Pauma Valley, Fallbrook, and Escondido.

According to court documents, Andres Chavez-Chavez was the head of one of the international drug trafficking organizations. He is alleged to have conspired with family members, including his brothers David Chavez-Chavez, Joel Chavez-Chavez, Salvador Chavez-Chavez and others, to import large amounts of methamphetamine into the United States from Mexico, to distribute the methamphetamine within the San Diego area, and to launder the drug proceeds by smuggling large amounts of United States Currency back into Mexico.

Salvador Chavez-Chavez also was the head of another methamphetamine trafficking group. He allegedly conspired with others in that organization to import methamphetamine from Mexico and distribute the methamphetamine within the San Diego area.

In total, the investigation resulted in the apprehension of 37 people, the indictment of 20 people, the removal from the U.S. of 18 illegal aliens, and the seizure of approximately 68 pounds of methamphetamine, 9.8 kilograms of heroin, two pounds of marijuana, 15 firearms, and approximately $295,000 in U.S. currency. Of the 20 indicted defendants, 15 defendants are Mexican nationals who were illegally in the United States at the time of the alleged offenses.

United States Attorney Hewitt said, “Drug trafficking organizations that import methamphetamine and distribute it within San Diego County will continued to be dismantled by federal law enforcement. This case demonstrates that individuals who engage in this conduct will not escape justice.” “The investigation was dubbed My Three Brothers and the sequel may, in fact, be called, ‘The family that plays together pays together.’ There is an expectation in this community that drug traffickers and money launderers will be uncovered and prosecuted and the DEA will continue to meet that expectation,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Alan Poleszak

“IRS Criminal Investigation plays a vital role in the disruption and dismantling of significant drug trafficking organizations by targeting the profits they derive from the sale of illegal narcotics,” said Ronald Krajewski, Acting Special Agent in Charge, San Diego Field Office. “The financial expertise of IRS Special Agents identifies the money laundering methods utilized by these organizations in order to trace their illegal profits.”

United States Attorney Hewitt praised the investigative efforts of the San Diego Field Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and DEA’s federal and state law enforcement partners including the Criminal Investigations Division of the Internal Revenue Service, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, United States Marshals Service, Escondido Police Department, National City Police Department, and San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

The defendants are next scheduled to be in court on July 9, 2007 at 2:00 p.m., before United States District Court Judge William Q. Hayes.

INDICTED DEFENDANTS:
Andres Chavez-Chavez
David Chavez-Chavez
Joel Chavez-Chavez
Patricia Mendez-Lopez
Omar Estrada-Esquivel
Miguel Sandoval-Valencia, aka Miguel Angel Manriquez
Luis Sandoval-Valencia, aka Alberto Zantana-Garcia
Carlos Perez
Ricardo Madrigal
Ismael Pena
Teresa Hermosillo
Ruby Arellano
Rosa Arellano
Ruben Hernandez-Romero, aka Efren Torres
Salvador Ojeda-Amarillas
Gerardo Casanova
Joaquin Bucio-Rodriguez, aka Arturo Ramirez-Hernandez
Salvador Chavez-Chavez
Julio Lua-Chavez, aka Miguel Lua-Chavez
Salvador Chavez-Chavez
Julio Lua-Chavez, aka Miguel Lua-Chavez
Laura Magana
Gerardo Casanova

SUMMARY OF CHARGES:
Conspiracy to Import Methamphetamine – Title 21, United States Code, Sections 952, 960, and 963
Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment and $4,000,000,000 fine
Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine – Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1) and 846
Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment and $4,000,000 fine
Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute – Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1)
Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment and $4,000,000 fine
Money Laundering Conspiracy – Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h)
Maximum penalty: 20 years’ imprisonment and fine of greater of $500,000 or double the amount
of the funds involved in the transportation
International Money Laundering – Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956(a)(2)(A), (B)(i)
Maximum penalty: 20 years’ imprisonment and fine of greater of $500,000 or double the amount
of the funds involved in the transportation
Criminal Forfeiture – Title 18, United States Code, Section 982(a)(1)
Maximum penalty: Forfeiture of proceeds

INVESTIGATING AGENCIES:
Drug Enforcement Administration -San Diego Field Office
Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
United States Marshals Service
Escondido Police Department
National City Police Department
San Diego County Sheriff’s Office

An indictment itself is not evidence that the defendants committed the crimes charged. The defendants are presumed innocent until the Government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.