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Press Release

Multi-agency Operation in Fresno Results in Multiple Arrests for Drug and Firearm Offenses

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

FRESNO, Calif. — On Thursday, following a 10-month-long investigation targeting local criminal street gangs in Fresno conducted by several federal law enforcement agencies and the Fresno Police Department, 15 defendants were arrested on federal charges and at least 14 defendants were arrested on state charges. The various charges include drug trafficking, conspiracy to traffic illegally in firearms, and transportation for the purpose of prostitution. The 104-page federal criminal complaint charges 18 defendants with criminal activity ranging from firearms trafficking, drug trafficking, and prostitution-related offenses. According to court documents, the investigation uncovered multiple sales of methamphetamine, cocaine, and firearms by the various defendants between January and August 2017.

U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge John J. Martin, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Jill Snyder, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan, and Fresno Chief of Police Jerry Dyer made the announcement today.

The investigation has resulted in the seizure of more than 30 firearms and multiple pounds of methamphetamine. On September 7, 2017, in addition to the arrests, nine search warrants and multiple probation and parole searches were executed on the target gang members and their associates.

U.S. Attorney Talbert stated: “This operation demonstrates how law enforcement partners at the federal, state and local level are working as one to pursue criminal gangs and their associates. All of these agencies will work tirelessly to protect our communities and to hold accountable those who threaten our safety.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge John J. Martin stated; “Drug, firearms and human trafficking bring blight to the community and tear at the fabric of society. DEA will continue to conduct investigations with our counterparts that send the message these activities will not be tolerated in our neighborhoods.”

“The FBI is dedicated to working with all law enforcement partners to effectively target gang violence in all of its forms,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “We are committed to keeping illegal firearms and drugs off of our streets and preventing victimization to ensure a brighter future for our community's families.”

“This investigation and today’s enforcement actions show the extraordinary multi-agency coordination and cooperation that is being brought to bear locally to take back our streets and combat gang-related violence and crime,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, the special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations who oversees the agency’s enforcement actions throughout northern California. “With its global reach and broad legal authorities, Homeland Security Investigations is uniquely equipped to tackle that mission and we’ll continue to work with our law enforcement partners to leverage those tools to help protect our communities from the significant public safety threat posed by criminal street gangs.”

“Firearms trafficking is one of the most pressing issues today,” said Special Agent in Charge Jill Snyder, ATF, San Francisco Field Division. “It is our duty to make this community a safer place for families. The safety of the public is at the core of ATF’s mission and through partnerships, law enforcement agencies create a unified front against violent crime, which make operations of this nature successful.”

The federal defendants, all Fresno residents, are as follows:
Carlos Montano, 27; Filibert Chavez, 35; Robin Gill, 31; Gabriel Gomez, 26; Juan Carlos Briceno, 36; Nicholas Bolanos, 25; Daniel Villanueva, 19; Gerrick Travis Tyrell Franklin, 27; Amina Padilla, 34; Robert Lockhart, 52; Idelfonso Soto, 19; Carlos Melgar, 36; Jeni Fries, 23; Cisco Hernandez, 23; Miguel Murrillo, 22; Adolfo Jesus Mendoza, 23; Jesus Melgarejo Jr., 26; and Cesar Gutierrez, 24. All are in custody except for Gabriel Gomez, Daniel Villanueva and Gerrick Travis Tyrell Franklin.

The charges are the product of an investigation by the DEA, FBI, HSI, ATF, the Fresno Police Department, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, and the Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium (MAGEC) with assistance from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly A. Sanchez and Jeffrey Spivak are prosecuting the case.

This case was 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 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.

As currently charged, if convicted, certain federal defendants face a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison and up to life in prison, while others face a minimum of five years in prison and up to a maximum of 40 years in prison for the conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine depending on the quantity of drugs involved; 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute; 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, the charge of possession of an unregistered firearm, the charge of interstate transportation for the purposes of prostitution; and five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for using a facility of interstate commerce to promote prostitution or for conspiracy to deal firearms without a license. Any sentence, however, would 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 are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated September 8, 2017

Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Human Trafficking
Violent Crime