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Press Release

Jury Finds Fresno Man Guilty on 6 Counts of Drug and Sex Trafficking Offenses

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

FRESNO, Calif. — On Thursday, a federal jury found Filiberto “Beto” Chavez, 37, of Fresno, guilty of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, conspiracy to engage in interstate travel for prostitution and two counts of use of a facility of interstate commerce to promote prostitution, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

U.S. Attorney Scott stated: “This verdict is the result of law enforcement partners at the federal, state and local level working as one to pursue criminal gangs and their associates. We will continue to work tirelessly together to protect our communities and to hold accountable those who threaten our safety.”

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer stated: “It excites me to see ruthless gang members removed from our society, especially those like Filiberto Chavez who treat women as property through violent acts of sex trafficking. Filiberto Chavez and his fellow conspirators have proven they belong behind bars.”

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa A. Smittcamp stated, “I congratulate U.S. Attorney Scott and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Sanchez, Jeffrey Spivak, and Thomas Newman on an outstanding job bringing Filiberto Chavez to justice. This conviction is yet another example of how cooperation between our local law enforcement agencies, the District Attorney and the United States Attorney works for the people of Fresno County. The Federal and local teams came together under the umbrella of the Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium and worked as one, focused on high ranking members of the Lewis Street Bulldogs criminal street gang. Special thanks to Senior Deputy District Attorney Lewis and the Officers and Deputies of MAGEC who gave their all to put this case together.”

According to court documents and testimony, Chavez sold methamphetamine to a convicted codefendant, Robert Lockhart, on July 8, 2017. Convicted codefendant Amina Padilla stored methamphetamine for Chavez and gave a portion of what she had stored to convicted codefendant Carlos Melgar to deliver to Lockhart. On July 11, 2017, agents served search warrants at Padilla’s and Lockhart’s apartments and seized methamphetamine from both.

Additionally, in June and July of 2017, Chavez was pimping a prostitute using the assistance of Padilla to post prostitution ads on the internet. Chavez invited convicted codefendants Carlos Montano and Miguel Murillo to join him in New York to engage in prostitution activities with each of their prostitutes. On July 2, 2017, Chavez flew from California to New York with his prostitute. On July 18, 2017, Montano and Murillo flew from California to New York and subsequently began engaging in prostitution activities.

This case is the product of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Fresno Police Department, Multi‑Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, and Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly A. Sanchez, Jeffrey Spivak, and Thomas Newman are prosecuting the case.

Chavez is scheduled to be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on August 5. Chavez faces a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $30,750,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, 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.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF Program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program 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.

Updated May 10, 2019

Drug Trafficking
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Press Release Number: 1:17-cr-198 LJO