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21 Charged in Operation Flamethrower

BOISE, IDAHOA federal grand jury in Boise indicted 13 people on February 8, 2011, for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, employment of people under age 18 in drug operations, distributing methamphetamine, using a telephone to commit drug trafficking crimes, possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, and illegal re-entry.

The indictment is the result of a year-long Organized Crime/Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation named Operation Flamethrower, which culminated on January 14 with the arrest of nine felony suspects, the execution of 18 search warrants, and the seizure of approximately five pounds of methamphetamine, marijuana, 28 firearms, and two bullet resistant vests. Over $30,000 in currency, and approximately ten vehicles, were also seized. Investigators from ten federal, state and local agencies were involved in the arrests and seizures.

The defendants named in the indictment are Jose Ramon Escobedo Gonzalez, 33, of Nampa; Lourdes Muro-Garcia, 32, of Nampa; Fabian Nunez-Garcia, 49, of Nampa; Juventino Lara-Plancarte, 42, of Nampa; Jorge Luis Cardoza, 24, of Nampa; Victor Chavez-Garcia, 18, of Nampa; Antony Alegria Zedeno, 24, of Nampa; Ronald Garcia, 61, of Nampa; Randi Leann Atkisson, 30, of Nampa; Diego Gomez-Lara, 26, of Nampa; Hideo Poindexter, 52, of Caldwell; Benjamin Prieto, 24, of Nampa; and Lindsay Stilwell, 24, of Nampa. Arraignments are set for Monday, February 14, 2011, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Larry M. Boyle at the Federal Courthouse in Boise, Idaho.

The federal charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances carries a mandatory minimum penalty of ten years to life in prison, a $4 million fine, and a term of supervised release for five years.

On February 8, 2011, the Canyon County Prosecutor's Office charged eight additional individuals by criminal complaint with solicitation to deliver methamphetamine: Ana Reyes aka Ana Gonzalez, 23, Nereida Lopez aka Nereida Munoz, 29, Elena Lupuleasa, 27, Mario Fernandez, 32, Gabriel Salazar, 27, Yolanda Salazar, 46, all of Nampa, and Kelly Smith, 52, of Meridian. Carlos Hugo Garcia, 35, of Nampa, was charged with solicitation to traffic methamphetamine. All are pending preliminary hearings in the next two weeks. The state charge of solicitation to deliver methamphetamine carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Operation Flamethrower is the sixth in a series of large drug trafficking cases, which have been undertaken by local and federal authorities over the past four years. Five previous operations — Operation Mountain Lion (2006 - 2007 methamphetamine case), Operation White Wolf (2008 cocaine case), Operation Tall Boy (2008 - 2009 methamphetamine/cocaine/marijuana case), Operation Poncho Villa (2009 - 2010 methamphetamine/cocaine/marijuana case), and Operation Night Rider (2010 - 2011 methamphetamine case) - also resulted in the successful prosecution of other large-scale drug trafficking organizations.

Operation Flamethrower included the cooperative law enforcement efforts of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Nampa Police Department, Drug Canyon County Sheriff's Office, Canyon County SWAT team, METRO Violent Crime Task Force, Idaho State Police, Caldwell Police Department, Ada County Sheriff's Office, Boise City Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Canyon County Prosecutor's Office, and the U.S. Attorney's Office. The investigation is ongoing.

The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.

Indictments and complaints are means of charging a person with criminal activity. They are not evidence. The person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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