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Press Release

Nine Members of Jefferson County Ring Affiliated with Jalisco New Generation Cartel Charged with Fentanyl Trafficking and Money Laundering Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM – A federal indictment unsealed on Wednesday charges nine defendants in a fentanyl trafficking and money laundering conspiracy based in Jefferson County, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley, and Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent in Charge Travis Pickard.

A seven-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges Juan Francisco Castaneda, aka Pariente, 40,  Karol Carlota Del Castillo-Cardozo, aka Guerra, 40, of Wilsonville, Bryant Lamar Reynolds, aka Bear, 37, Preston Omar Chatman, aka Peno, 41, of Birmingham, Jose Lopez Flores, 44, of Birmingham, Cheryl Johnson, 57, of Pinson, and Francisco Del Castillo, aka Paco, 26, with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl between March 2022 and March 2023.  The indictment further charges Castaneda, Castillo-Cardozo, Blanca Iris Ozuna, aka Flaca, 35, of Birmingham, and Juan Fidencio Lerma Gomez, 40, with conspiracy to commit money laundering of drug trafficking proceeds between March 2022 and March 2023.

The indictment includes special findings of the grand jury regarding the amount of fentanyl attributable to various defendants as part of the drug-trafficking conspiracy.

Castaneda, Flores, and Johnson are charged with conspiring to distribute 400 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl. This charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Castillo-Cardozo, Chatman, Reynolds, and Castillo is charged with conspiring to distribute 40 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl. This charge carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.

Castaneda, Castillo-Cardozo, Reynolds, Chatman, Castillo, Flores, and Johnson are also charged with distribution of fentanyl.

Castaneda and Reynolds were already in custody serving state prison sentences. Castaneda is serving multiple life sentences for Murder in Bullock Correctional Facility. According to public records, Castaneda pleaded guilty to a multi-homicide in Shelby County in 2008, in which five individuals were murdered over a cartel debt. Reynolds is serving multiple life sentences for Murder in St. Clair Correctional Facility.

The indictment also seeks a money judgment in the amount of $700,000.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance is life in prison. 

The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit money laundering is 20 years in prison.

“The indictment represents a collaborative effort between multiple federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to combat the scourge of fentanyl trafficking and organized crime in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona.  “The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force remains committed to stopping the flow of dangerous drugs into our neighborhoods by disrupting and dismantling criminal enterprises.”

“The DEA is committed to defeating the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and bringing to justice those members responsible for the trafficking of fentanyl and other dangerous illicit drugs” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Towanda Thorne-James.  “DEA along with our federal, state, and local partners will continue to pursue all avenues to deny drug traffickers and money launderers the one thing they value the most – their profit.”

“This indictment sends a clear message to those that attempt to turn a profit by distributing poison in our communities that they will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Travis Pickard, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Our community is a much safer place thanks to the tireless efforts of all our federal, state and local partners.”

The DEA and HSI investigated the case, along with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service, United States Marshals Service, United States Postal Inspection Service, Hoover Police Department, Birmingham Police Department, Bessemer Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Alabama Department of Corrections, and Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Allison Garnett and Blake Milner are prosecuting the case.

This investigation is part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), Operation “Wildcard.” OCDETF is an independent component of the U.S. Department of Justice.  Established in 1982, OCDETF is the centerpiece of the Attorney General’s strategy to combat transnational-organized-crime and to reduce the availability of illicit narcotics in the nation by using a prosecutor-led, multi-agency approach to enforcement.  OCDETF leverages the resources and expertise of its partners in concentrated, coordinated, long-term enterprise investigations of transnational organized crime, money laundering, and major drug trafficking networks.

An indictment contains only charges.  Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated May 5, 2023

Drug Trafficking