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Press Release

Two Arrested Pursuant to Grand Jury Indictment that Alleges Family-Run Narcotics Ring Trafficked Cocaine and Fentanyl

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

         LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities this morning arrested two defendants named in a federal grand jury indictment that alleges a family-run drug trafficking organization trafficked in kilogram quantities of cocaine, as well as fentanyl pills.

         With one of the named defendants already in federal custody, authorities are continuing to search for the three remaining defendants, which includes the mother who allegedly oversaw the operation.

         The eight-count indictment lists a series of drug deals, attempted narcotics transactions and money laundering activity starting in September 2018 and running through July 3, 2019.

         The indictment charges six defendants:

  • Maria Trinidad Gutierrez Mendoza, aka “Tia,” 54, of Downey, the alleged leader of the narcotics ring, who allegedly possessed 4.3 kilograms (about 9.5 pounds) of cocaine one year ago;
  • Maria’s son, Jose Ceja Gutierrez, aka “Feo” and other aliases, 32, of South Gate, who is currently in federal prison on unrelated charges;
  • Maria’s daughter, Karina Ceja Gutierrez, 35, of Los Angeles, who allegedly helped her mother obtain cocaine and was arrested today;
  • Jose’s girlfriend, Esmerelda Rodriguez, aka “Barbara Moran,” 29, of Huntington Park, who allegedly helped obtain fentanyl pills;
  • Primitivo Cisneros Cruz, aka “Primo,” 70, of Los Angeles, an alleged source of narcotics for the drug ring, who allegedly was found with a kilogram of cocaine in May 2019 and was arrested today; and
  • Bridgett Coates, aka “Sharol,” “Janet” and “Yane,” 55, of Lawndale, an alleged customer of the organization.

         Karina Gutierrez and Cruz are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

         All six defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, a charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a statutory maximum sentence of life.

         The indictment further charges Gutierrez Mendoza with possessing 4.3 kilograms of cocaine one year ago. Jose Gutierrez and Rodriguez are charged with possession with intent to distribute controlled substances related to an April 2019 seizure of nearly 7,400 fentanyl pills falsely marked as oxycodone. Cruz is charged with possessing a kilogram of cocaine in May 2019.

         An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

         The two-year investigation into the Gutierrez drug trafficking organization was conducted jointly by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations. Substantial assistance was provided by the South Gate Police Department.

         This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kathy Yu of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section.


Thom Mrozek
Director of Media Relations
United States Attorney’s Office
Central District of California (Los Angeles)
(213) 894-6947

Updated June 30, 2020

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: 20-113