Federal Authorities Charge 43 People Linked to Drug-Trafficking Groups that Brought Large Quantities of Narcotics from Mexico
LOS ANGELES – Federal agents this morning arrested 17 defendants and executed search warrants at a dozen locations across Southern California – including a Van Nuys taco shop and a North Hollywood auto repair business – linked to a network of drug trafficking cells and Mexico-based suppliers that imported large quantities of Mexican cocaine, heroin and high-purity crystal methamphetamine into the Los Angeles area.
Those arrested today are among 43 defendants named in federal charges stemming from an 10-month wiretap investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Torrance Police Department and IRS-Criminal Investigation. According to a criminal complaint unsealed this morning, the investigation uncovered a loose-knit ring of drug importers, couriers and distributors operating throughout Southern California.
The criminal complaint names 43 defendants, 17 of whom were arrested this morning. Four more defendants were already in federal custody. Authorities are continuing to search for 22 defendants, most of whom are believed to be in Mexico at this time.
The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint discusses four loosely related drug-distribution cells, one of which is allegedly operated by the owner of a San Fernando Valley auto shop. According to the affidavit, Gerardo Celis Gaytan, 41, of Sun Valley, who operates Campos Auto Repair in North Hollywood, was heard on federal wiretaps discussing loads of heroin and other drugs smuggled from Mexico in vehicles his auto repair shop had outfitted with hidden compartments.
In addition to the drugs allegedly smuggled in vehicles driven across the international border, the affidavit outlines a wiretapped conversation between Gaytan and another defendant – Jose Daniel Lopez, 33, a United States citizen who resides in Mexico – in which the men discuss a shipment of heroin secreted in tubes of household silicone. Lopez, who operates a Chula Vista masonry business, allegedly served as one of Gaytan’s drug suppliers and also helped coordinate the transfer of money generated by the drug sales.
“This investigation has dealt a serious blow to a trafficking network we believe was funneling significant quantities of high-grade methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin into the Los Angeles area,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “In fact, the Mexican-made methamphetamine seized in this case is some of the most pure we’ve ever seen. Today’s arrests have disrupted a potentially deadly supply chain and prevented untold quantities of dangerous drugs from reaching our streets.”
During the past three months, the investigation has resulted in the seizure of approximately 135 pounds of methamphetamine, 15 kilograms of cocaine, 1.2 pounds of black tar heroin and $100,000 in cash.
“IRS-Criminal Investigation is a proud participant in our nation’s war on drugs. Our agents’ financial expertise compliments narcotics investigations by aiding in disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations,” said Leslie P. DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Today’s enforcement actions are a testament of the success of a multi-agency approach in drug investigations. In this instance, all of the agencies brought their combined expertise to bear to successfully bring these drug traffickers to justice.”
The House of Tacos in Van Nuys that was searched this morning is operated by Gregorio Martinez Rios, 42, of North Hollywood, who allegedly used the taco shop as a storage location for drugs. Rios, according to the criminal complaint, allegedly supplied Gaytan with cocaine.
Another man who allegedly supplied Gaytan with narcotics is Roberto Murillo Sanchez, 50, of Palmdale. According to the affidavit, Murillo allegedly produced methamphetamine at his residence and supplied Gaytan and others with methamphetamine and cocaine.
Gaytan, Lopez, Martinez and Murillo were among the 17 defendants arrested during this morning’s takedown. The defendants taken into custody today are expected to make their initial appearances in federal court in Los Angeles and San Diego this afternoon.
The criminal complaint charges 43 defendants. In addition to the four defendants discussed above, four defendants are already in custody in San Diego. They are:
Rogelio Ramon Bohon Chao, 41, of Imperial Beach;
Jesus Jacobo Escobar, 52, of Mexico;
Hermila Moreno, 36, of Rialto; and
Florencio Fernandez Galarza, 45, of Hesperia.
The remaining defendants named in the criminal complaint are:
David Trujillo, 40, of Pacoima, an employee at Gaytan’s auto shop, who was arrested today;
• Gregorio Martinez Rios, 42, of North Hollywood, the owner of The House of Tacos, who was arrested today;
Carlos David Martinez Galvan, 23, of Chula Vista, who was arrested today;
Benjamin Avalos Zarate, 52, of Lompoc, who is a fugitive;
Nora Millan, 38, of Palmdale, who was arrested today;
Sergio Ramos Ibarra, 23, of Adelanto, who was arrested today;
Jaime Galarza, 44, of Apple Valley, who was arrested today;
Jasmin Elisa Parra Barraza, 32, of Long Beach, who was arrested today;
Rodolfo Raygoza Tiznado, 33, of Mexico, who is a fugitive;
Herculano Medina Rosales, 44, of Chino, who is a fugitive;
Joel Ahumada Pacheco, 48, of Tijuana, who is a fugitive;
Amador Herrera Cosio, 37, formerly of Long Beach, now a resident of Mexico, who was arrested today;
Candelario Elias-Camacho, 47, of Mexico, who is a fugitive;
Jorge Fernando Bermudez, 31, of Garden Grove, who was arrested today;
Jonas Carrillo Partida, 36, of Tijuana, who is a fugitive;
Ricardo Bazua Perez, 39, of Riverside, who is a fugitive;
Nereyda Benetiz, 40, of Riverside, who was arrested today;
Vicente Sanchez Hernandez, 40, of Sylmar, who was arrested this morning;
Juan Machado Martinez, 33, of Sylmar, who was arrested today;
Maria Cardenas Machado, 50, of San Bernardino, who was arrested today;
Juan Manuel Ruiz Jr., 28, of San Diego, who is at large, but who has agreed to surrender to authorities; and
a series of defendants who are charged under their first names or who are identified only as “FNU LNU” – First Name Unknown, Last Name Unknown.
All of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, a charge that carries a penalty of up to 40 years in federal prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Release No. 12-115
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