United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California
Twenty Defendants Indicted in Operation Targeting Drug and Arms Trafficking by Gang Members and Associates
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
Friday, November 16, 2012
Docket #: 2:12-cr-393 - 399
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On Thursday, November 15, 2012, a federal grand jury returned nine indictments charging 20 defendants with drug and arms trafficking by the Nuestra Familia prison gang (the NF) and its affiliated Norteño gang members, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
The NF is a violent prison gang based within the California and Federal prison systems whose members exert control over street-level Norteño gang members engaged in drug trafficking and violent crime. During the course of this investigation, agents gathered evidence that many of the defendants are either members of the NF, members of a Norteño gang, or an associate of the NF. Some of the defendants are alleged to have extensive criminal histories including armed robbery, assault, and drug distribution. According to information made public during bail hearings, large amounts of narcotics, firearms, and cash were seized during the arrests in this operation last week. This operation is the latest of several major operations targeting members and associates of the NF in the Eastern District of California over the last several years. Several dozen NF members and associates are awaiting trial in this district, and several more are currently serving lengthy federal prison sentences.
“Members of violent gangs who traffic in drugs and guns are a serious threat to the safety of our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “Bringing prosecutions which disrupt these gangs, and take the worst offenders off the streets, will continue to be a top priority for this office.”
“These indictments are the product of a successful, two-year, collaborative investigation that focused on disrupting and dismantling a violent, gang affiliated drug and weapons trafficking organization that was slowly and thoughtlessly unraveling the fabric of our community,” said Herbert M. Brown, Special Agent in Charge of the Sacramento Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Our Safe Streets Task Force remains committed to improving the quality of life in our community by eliminating such violent organizations and removing criminals from our streets.”
According to court documents, Vidal Dominic Fabela, 45; Zebulen Cole Hughes, 20; Albert Miranda, 29; Angelo Lorenzo Gonzales, 27; Mario Hernandez Garcia, 35; Jaime Ysidro Sturgis, 37; Emilio Roberto Lopez, 19; Rudolph Edward Jimenez, 26; and Eleazar Guido Nunez, 21, all of Sacramento, conspired to distribute and did distribute large amounts of methamphetamine in the Sacramento area. The indictment further charges Jose Andre Jaramillo, 35, a felon, with possessing a firearm he distributed on behalf of Jaime Sturgis. In addition, according to the indictment, defendants Sturgis and Garcia were arrested in possession of at least 50 grams of pure methamphetamine.
According to court documents, Alvaro Herrera, 29; Cilvino Dejesus Hernandez, 31; Arthur Albert Morales, 32; Juan Carlos Palacios Venegas, 42; and Rusty Allen Rycraft, 22, were charged with distribution of methamphetamine. Morales was also charged with possession of methamphetamine. Rycraft was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
According to court documents, Jesse Anthony Montanez, 24; Sonny Melvin Gonzalez, 23; Ramon Jose Levario, 30; Zachary Kurtz, 21; and Robert Emilio Gonzalez, 31, all of Sacramento, distributed methamphetamine in the Sacramento area. Levario, a felon, allegedly also sold a firearm to confidential source. Some of these defendants have criminal histories that include assault, carjacking, and drug distribution.
These cases are the product of an extensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Task Force, which includes the Sacramento Police Department, California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Thomas is prosecuting the cases.
These cases were part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
When prosecuted in federal court, drug traffickers typically receive much harsher sentences. In addition to the longer sentences imposed, unlike state court prisoners who are released early on parole, there is no early release on parole in the federal system.
The statutory penalty for conspiring to methamphetamine is 10 years up to life in prison and a $10 million fine. Depending upon the quantity and purity levels of methamphetamine seized, the penalties associated with the distribution and possession of methamphetamine counts range from five years up to life in prison. The maximum statutory penalty for being a felon in possession of a firearm is up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences imposed, if convicted, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
The charges in each indictment are only allegations and each of the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.