Twenty-One Indicted in Major Heroin
Importation and Distribution Conspiracy
Significant Ties to Drug Trafficking Organization in Mexico
JUL 31 -- SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Acting United States Attorney Lawrence G. Brown, United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent-in-Charge Anthony D. Williams, San Francisco Police Department Chief Heather Fong, and San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force Commander Marc Alcantara announced today the unsealing of an indictment returned by a grand jury sitting in Fresno on July 23, 2009, charging 21 individuals in a wide-ranging heroin importation and distribution conspiracy.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), which included the DEA, the San Francisco Police Department, the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force, and the DEA’s Special Operations Division with assistance from the Stanislaus County Drug Enforcement Agency, the California Highway Patrol, U.S.Customs and Border Protection, several Bay Area Police Departments, and the District Attorney’s Offices in San Mateo, Stanislaus, and San Francisco Counties. The federal OCDETF program leverages the combined expertise of federal, state, and local law enforcement in targeting significant drug trafficking organizations.
The conspiracy formed a chain of supply from Michoacan, Mexico exporting kilogram quantity shipments of heroin in elaborate hidden vehicle engine compartments to a Central Valley wholesale drug-trafficking organization. That organization then supplied major dealers in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, East Palo Alto, Hayward, and San Leandro, who in turn supplied hundreds of heroin users and addicts. The conspiracy then came full circle through the smuggling of bulk cash from heroin proceeds, sold in the San Francisco Bay Area, back to Michoacan, Mexico in the same hidden engine compartments.
With the use of multiple court-authorized wiretaps, the investigation uncovered the trafficking of approximately 200 kilograms of heroin smuggled into the United States and $670,000 in bulk cash destined for Mexico as proceeds of the heroin trafficking. DEA estimates place the street value of the heroin at $17.5 million. According to DEA, both the heroin smuggled into the United States from Mexico and the bulk cash smuggled back to Mexico were transported in elaborate hidden compartments within the engines or transmissions of specially built vehicles. Investigators actually seized approximately 50 kilograms of the smuggled heroin and $250,000 in of the bulk cash. DEA has also seized three of the vehicles for destruction.
“This investigation strikes a major blow against heroin trafficking in Northern California. Heroin is a highly addictive drug that destroys lives. The numerous local, state, and federal agencies who partnered during this 18-month operation are to be commended,” stated Acting United States Attorney Brown.
“This case began with street-level distributors in San Francisco and led us to the source supply in Mexico. During the course of the investigation, law enforcement denied the organization millions of dollars in revenue by seizing large quantities of tar heroin and shipments of bulk currency,” stated DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Williams. “As a result of the hard work and dedication of officers and agents throughout the state, this heroin organization operating out of California’s Central Valley and supplying much of the Bay Area with this dangerous drug has been dismantled.”
COUNTS 1 & 2
The five-count indictment first charges key members of the Modesto-based FABIO CAZARES-ZAMORA Drug Trafficking Organization (CAZARES DTO) and members of their source of supply, a drug trafficking organization based in Michoacan, Mexico, known as “Las Moicas,” (LAS MOICAS DTO) with conspiracies to import heroin into the United States from Mexico (Count One) and to smuggle heroin trafficking proceeds back to Mexico (Count Two).
The indictment further charges key CAZARES DTO members and one of its major San Francisco Bay area wholesale customers, as well as several LAS MOICAS DTO heroin load drivers, with distributing heroin in stash houses located within 1,000 feet of three public elementary schools and one playground. Investigators identified those distribution drop-off points as being: (1) approximately 160 feet from the Burbank Elementary School, located at 222 Burbank Street in Hayward; (2) approximately 74 feet from the playground of the Church of the Cross, located at 354 “B” Street in Hayward; (3) approximately 160 feet from the Lockwood Elementary School located at 6701 International Boulevard in Oakland; and (4) approximately 60 feet from the Lockwood Child Development Center located at 1125 69th Avenue in Oakland. Count Three doubles the maximum penalties for those distributions.
Count Four charges a conspiracy to distribute heroin based on the wholesale distribution of heroin conducted between the CAZARES DTO and its wholesale customers in Modesto, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, East Palo Alto, Hayward, and San Leandro.
Finally, Count Five charges CAZARES DTO leader, FABIO CAZARES-ZAMORA, with one substantive count of possession with intent to distribute over 20 pounds of heroin during one single event in the heroin distribution conspiracy. According to DEA and court documents, the investigation also revealed that one of the CAZARES DTO wholesale customers, the East Palo Alto-based MAGAÑA drug trafficking organization, regularly employed young men specifically smuggled from the Mexican State of Michoacan as heroin “runners.” The investigation revealed that the MAGAÑA DTO paid human traffickers thousands of dollars to have the runners smuggled into the United States. Once in East Palo Alto, the MAGAÑA DTO housed all of the runners together in an apartment, gave them a car and a cell phone. They delivered drugs until their debt was either paid off or until law enforcement arrested them. Investigators also found that the MAGAÑA DTO supplied hundreds of users and addicts on the streets of San Francisco. Retail customers would typically call-in orders into the MAGAÑA DTO and runners would respond.
Beginning in the early hours of Tuesday, July 28, 2009, federal, state, and local law enforcement agents simultaneously executed multiple search warrants in the Central Valley and
the San Francisco Bay area. Those search warrants produced approximately six pounds of seized
heroin and a small quantity of methamphetamine as well as several thousand dollars in cash. Agents have also been conducting arrests of those defendants named in the indictment in the San Francisco Bay area, the Central Valley, and Los Angeles. Three of the defendants, however, are currently in San Mateo County custody on unrelated state narcotics charges. Those defendants will eventually be transported to the U.S. District Court in Fresno following resolution of their state charges. One of the defendants recently began serving a prison sentence at San Quentin State Prison on unrelated state narcotics charges. Other defendants remain at large, either in Mexico or in the United States. The DEA will seek extraditions of appropriate defendants located in Mexico.
A status conference is scheduled for August 10, 2009 at 9:00 A.M. before U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger in Fresno. The attached chart lists all defendants, their charges and their custody status.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Marlon Cobar, who is prosecuting the case, the heroin importation and distribution conspiracies; as well as the count charging possession of one kilogram or more of heroin with intent to distribute, carry a mandatory minimum term of ten years in prison and a maximum term of life in prison, along with a maximum fine of $4 million. The bulk cash smuggling conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. The charge alleging distribution of one kilogram or more of heroin within 1,000 feet of a school or playground doubles the maximum penalties provided under the law. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables and any applicable statutory sentencing factors. The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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