Precursor Chemical Broker Sentenced for Methamphetamine Importation and Money Laundering Conspiracies
Eight indictments were unsealed in the District of Columbia, Southern District of California, Central District of California, and Northern District of Illinois charging 60 Mexican and foreign nationals with international heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, and marijuana trafficking.
The unsealing of the indictments comes at the same time that the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against 12 of the defendants linked to the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO).
“The eight indictments unsealed today charging 60 defendants are the latest installments in the Justice Department’s relentless pursuit of drug trafficking organizations that smuggle illicit narcotics into the United States,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “Together with our partners — across the U.S. government and around the world — we will use every tool at our disposal and target every link in the supply chain to dismantle the organizations that flood our communities with deadly narcotics.”
“The indictments unsealed today, charging 60 defendants that threatened our communities, are indicative of the FBI’s everlasting commitment to serving justice and dismantling criminal activities and networks,” said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate. “We work alongside our federal, state, and local partners to work hand in hand to disrupt and ultimately triumph over the shadow of drug trafficking, ensuring a safer and more secure future for all.”
One defendant, Oscar Manuel Gastelum Iribe, aka Salgado and Musico, 49, is indicted in the District of Columbia, Southern District of California, and Northern District of Illinois. As alleged in court documents, Gastelum Iribe coordinated deliveries of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin into the United States and deliveries of millions of dollars of cash narcotics proceeds from customers in the United States for the BLO.
District of Columbia
Three indictments were unsealed in the District of Columbia charging five Mexican nationals with international drug trafficking.
As alleged in the indictments, Jose Gil Caro Quintero, aka Pelo Chino and El Chino, 55, conspired to import large quantities of cocaine from Mexico into the United States from 1994 to January 2022. Francisco Abraham Flores Ortiz, aka Panchito, 46, and two now-deceased co-conspirators, allegedly conspired to import large quantities of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana from Mexico into the United States for distribution from January 2008 to January 2018. Gastelum Iribe allegedly conspired to import large quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine from Mexico into the United States for distribution from January 2009 to December 2015.
Caro Quintero, Flores Ortiz, and Gastelum Iribe are all charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances for unlawful importation into the United States. Gastelum Iribe is also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. If convicted, Caro Quintero and Flores Ortiz face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison. Gastelum Iribe faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The FBI Washington Field Office is investigating the case, with assistance from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego Field Office for the investigation of Caro Quintero.
Trial Attorneys Kate Naseef and Samantha Thompson of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section are prosecuting the cases, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Martin for the Southern District of California for the prosecution of Caro Quintero.
Southern District of California
Three indictments were unsealed in the Southern District of California charging 29 individuals with international drug trafficking offenses.
“These indictments have neutralized dozens of alleged maritime traffickers and prevented addictive, harmful, and increasingly often deadly drugs from reaching American shores and streets,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath for the Southern District of California. “Cases like this are critical for disrupting, disabling, and dismantling the sinister and deadly operations of foreign drug trafficking organizations in the United States.”
The first indictment returned in September 2019 charges Gastelum Iribe, Servando Lopez Lopez, 49, and another individual with allegedly conspiring to distribute cocaine knowing it would be imported into the United States and a maritime drug conspiracy. If convicted, they each face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The second indictment returned in April also charges Juan Pablo Bastidas Erenas, 43, Bogar Soto Rodriguez, aka Ricardo Colmenarez, 49, Juvenal Leon Rodriguez, 47, Mario German Beltran Araujo, 31, Ulises Franco Figueroa, 36, Oscar Aleman Meza, 61, and 17 others with conspiring to distribute cocaine knowing it would be imported into the United States and a maritime drug conspiracy. If convicted, they each face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.
“The defendants charged in these cases threatened the safety and health of the American people by trafficking fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other deadly drugs into the United States and by using violence to further their criminal acts,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “DEA remains committed to our important work with our law enforcement partners to protect our communities and bring to justice criminal organizations like the Beltran Leyva Organization and others.”
The third indictment returned in April charges Josue De Jesus Estrada Gutierrez and two others with conspiring to import cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl. If convicted, they each face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and maximum penalty of life in prison.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Coast Guard Investigative Service is investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua C. Mellor and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison B. Murray for the Southern District of California are prosecuting the cases.
Central District of California
An indictment was unsealed in the Central District of California charging Amberto Beltran, aka Amembertito, 34, for allegedly conspiring with 26 co-conspirators to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine, at least five kilograms of cocaine, and at least one kilogram of heroin.
“International drug traffickers profit off the suffering of others and, in the process, devastate families and undermine communities,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California. “Our office is committed to bringing to justice those who cause so much pain to our people.”
Beltran is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine, and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison on each count and a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The DEA investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher C. Kendall and Skyler F. Cho for the Central District of California are prosecuting this case.
Northern District of Illinois
An indictment unsealed in the Northern District of Illinois charges Gastelum Iribe for allegedly conspiring with others to traffic distribution quantities of cocaine and heroin into Chicago in 2007 and 2008. As part of the conspiracy, Gastelum Iribe allegedly acted as a logistical coordinator for Arturo Beltran Leyva’s drug trafficking organization, coordinating deliveries of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin into the United States from Mexico.
“The charges announced today make clear that the Department of Justice remains focused on dismantling transnational criminal organizations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Morris Pasqual for the Northern District of Illinois. “We will continue to investigate and hold accountable members of drug cartels who seek to traffic narcotics in our communities.”
“This joint effort is emblematic of the federal government’s commitment to combatting the scourge of illegal narcotics in our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Justin Campbell of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI) Chicago Field Office. “We understand that combatting drug trafficking requires a multifaceted approach and IRS:CI is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our law enforcement partners in this endeavor.”
If convicted, Gastelum Iribe faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison. The indictment also seeks $885 million in forfeiture from Gastelum Iribe.
The DEA Chicago Field Division, IRS:CI Chicago Field Office, and Chicago Police Department are investigating the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erika Csicsila and Andrew Erskine for the Northern District of Illinois are prosecuting the case.
The cases in the District of Columbia, Southern District of California, Central District of California, and Northern District of Illinois are supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided significant assistance.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.