Arrests Follow Undercover Deal involving 10 Pounds of Methamphetamine
LOS ANGELES – In the second phase of Operation “Supernova,” which is an investigation into Ventura County’s largest street gang, three defendants have been arrested on federal drug distribution and firearms trafficking charges.
The arrests on Tuesday afternoon followed an undercover operation in Camarillo, where a Colonia Chiques street gang member was in possession of 10 pounds of methamphetamine that he had agreed to sell, along with four kilograms of cocaine, to undercover operatives for a total price of $200,000. That street gang member, Luis Manuel Tapia, who is believed to be a leader of the Colonia Chiques, is accused in a criminal complaint of engaging in a series of transactions that involve narcotics and weapons, including a fully automatic assault rifle.
Yesterday’s arrests are the result of an investigation into the Colonia Chiques, which was formed in the 1970s, has more than 1,000 documented members, and has strong ties to the Mexican Mafia prison gang. In the first part of Operation Supernova (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/pressroom/pr2011/018.html), federal prosecutors have convicted 11 defendants who have received sentences of up to 25 years in prison.
In a criminal complaint unsealed yesterday, six defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and conspiracy to sell firearms without a dealer license. The defendants named in the criminal complaint are:
Luis Manuel Tapia, 35, of Ojai, a Mexican Mafia associate, who is alleged to be principally responsible for the narcotics and firearms transactions alleged in the complaint;
Diana Sophia Zamora, 23, of Camarillo, an associate of the Colonia Chiques gang, who was arrested yesterday at the site of the methamphetamine deal and is accused of assisting Tapia with firearms and narcotics transactions;
Edgar Rafael Aguilar, 29, of Oxnard, a Colonia Chiques member, who was arrested yesterday at his home in Oxnard, and who in August was allegedly in possession of nearly one pound of methamphetamine he had obtained from Tapia’s stash house;
Roger Gonzales Armendariz, 35, of Oxnard, a Colonia Chiques member who is currently in state custody and who allegedly sold guns to undercover operatives and assisted in Tapia’s narcotics transactions;
Jaime Cardenas, 19, of Oxnard, who is currently a fugitive; and
An unknown male who allegedly supplied narcotics to Tapia.
In addition to the arrests, law enforcement authorities yesterday seized an AK-47 and sawed-off shotgun from one of Tapia’s residences. The defendants who were arrested yesterday are expected to make their initial appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, yesterday’s transaction followed a mid-September meeting in Las Vegas in which an FBI agent posed as a narcotics trafficker and negotiated the methamphetamine and cocaine deal with Tapia and an unknown male.
The affidavit describes a number of incidents over the past seven months, including a June traffic stop in which Zamora was driving Tapia’s car that allegedly had contraband in a hidden compartment, including 2.52 pounds of heroin, 9.2 ounces of cocaine, 9.6 ounces of methamphetamine, cash and two loaded firearms. The affidavit further describes:
a May transaction in which Tapia sold an undercover operative a quarter-pound of nearly pure methamphetamine;
several one-ounce methamphetamine deals;
an incident only last Wednesday in which Tapia allegedly sold an informant a fully-automatic assault rifle and a .38 handgun with ammunition; and
how Tapia bragged to an informant how heroin he sold has “killed six people” but its deadly potency made it “a good advertisement” for him.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The defendants named in the complaint face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years in federal prison and statutory maximum sentences of life in prison if they are convicted.
The investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Oxnard Police Department. The following agencies provided support during yesterday’s arrests: the Ventura County Probation Department; the Ventura Police Department; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Release No. 11-156
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