Thirteen Defendants Indicted In State-Wide Drug Trafficking Conspiracy
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Over $1.3 Million in U.S. Currency and 153.1 Pounds of Drugs Seized
OAKLAND – A federal grand jury indicted thirteen defendants for conducting a state-wide conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and the distribution of controlled substances, announced Acting United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge John J. Martin, and Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Acting Special Agent in Charge Thomas P. McMahon. All thirteen defendants are charged with trafficking numerous controlled substances, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, several defendants are charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and one defendant is changed with money laundering.
The indictment, filed on November 19, 2015, alleges that between December of 2013, and October of 2015, the following individuals were involved in a large-scale drug trafficking organization whose network extended throughout California and into Mexico:
Carlos Olivares Hernandez, 49, of Turlock
Manuel Gonzalez Chavez, 39, of Stockton
Daniel Jimenez, 45, of Ballico
Manuel Lara Andrade, 61, of Delhi
Gabriel Estrada, 39, of Los Angeles
Vanessa Valdez, 29, of Chula Vista
Ruben Franco Lopez, 45, of Turlock;
Carlos Martinez, Jr; 23, of Hayward
Michael Anthony Sherman Sr., 45, of Lathrop
Ismael Mendoza Rodriguez, 35, of Turlock
Elias Dominguez, 43, of Patterson
Jesus Guadalupe Rojas, 29, of Delhi
Jose Armando Mendoza Linares, 39, of Turlock
According to the indictment, underlying criminal complaints, and public records, a federal investigation revealed that Olivares Hernandez and his co-defendants regularly received large shipments of drugs from couriers transporting the contraband from San Diego area to the Central Valley of California. The defendants are further alleged to have distributed the drugs in the Central Valley and Bay Area of California. The thirteen defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841. The grand jury also indicted three of the defendants, Andrade, Chavez Gonzalez, and Mendoza Rodriguez, for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). The grand jury further charged Olivares Hernandez with fifty-six counts of money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i).
"This investigation demonstrates the size and scope of the drug trafficking organizations that we can effectively target through the combined efforts of federal and local law enforcement,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch. “These long-term wiretap investigations and resulting charges strike at the heart of sophisticated drug trafficking and will take hundreds of thousands of doses of drugs off our streets."
DEA Special Agent in Charge John J. Martin stated, “No stone was left unturned in this investigation and its success can be attributed to the excellent collaborative effort between federal and local law enforcement. These arrests and seizures have disabled an organization with tentacles operating throughout California. DEA will diligently work with our law enforcement partners to identify and dismantle drug distribution networks at the highest levels.”
IRS Criminal Investigations Acting Special Agent in Charge Thomas McMahon said, “The combined efforts of law enforcement agencies in an investigation of this magnitude produce a formidable force against narcotics trafficking and money laundering. It’s critical to determine where the money comes from and where it goes. Finding and connecting those ‘dots’ is what IRS-CI brings to this cooperative effort.”
According to documents filed in connection with the indictment and public records, the investigation also revealed the defendants used sophisticated means to attempt transporting the drugs without detection from Southern California to the Central Valley. For example, law enforcement stopped Valdez while he was driving a vehicle containing 33 pounds of methamphetamine on September 5, 2015. The drugs were secreted inside an electronically-operated compartment built beneath the front seats and operated via buttons concealed in the center console. The defendants are also alleged to have routinely sent bulk cash payments to Mexico via couriers based in Southern California. For example, law enforcement discovered approximately $399,000 in U.S. currency hidden behind the truck-bed liner of a vehicle driven by Estrada while headed southbound on Highway-99 on October 12, 2015. In sum, searches executed at the conclusion of the investigation resulted in the cumulative seizure of more than $1.3 million in U.S. currency; numerous firearms, including an AK-47 with an extended magazine; pieces of body armor; vehicles containing aftermarket traps; and additional items. Agents also seized suspected drugs in the following quantities: 38 kilograms of cocaine, 58.1 pounds of methamphetamine, and 11.4 pounds of heroin. The drugs are alleged to have an estimated street value of over $4 million.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted of the drug conspiracy charge, all of the defendants, with the exception of Carlos Olivares Hernandez, face a mandatory 10-year term of imprisonment and maximum sentence of life, and a maximum fine of $10 million for the alleged violations of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841 (a)(1),(b)(1)(A)(viii). Carlos Olivares Hernandez faces a mandatory 20-year term of imprisonment and maximum of life and a maximum fine of $20 million for the alleged violations of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841 (a)(1),(b)(1)(A)(viii) based on the Information for Increased Punishment.
If convicted of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), defendants Daniel Jimenez, Manuel Lara Andrade, Manuel Gonzalez Chavez, and Ismael Mendoza Rodriguez face a consecutive mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 5 years, 7 years if the firearm was brandished, or 10 years if the firearms was discharged. In addition, if, for any of the three defendants, it is his second conviction under § 924(c), the defendant faces a minimum 25 years’ imprisonment and a maximum lifetime of imprisonment.
If convicted, Carlos Olivares Hernandez also faces a maximum 20 years of imprisonment and maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transactions for the alleged money laundering charges, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i).
Any sentences following the defendants’ convictions would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
The defendants are scheduled for an initial appearance on the indictment before the Honorable Judge James Donato, U.S. District Court Judge, on December 17, 2015. All of the defendants, with the exception of Carlos Martinez Jr., are in custody.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Katie Burroughs Medearis, Aaron D. Wegner, and Gregg Lowder are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Michelle Alter and Vanessa Vargas. The prosecution is the result of a multi-year investigation by the DEA, the Concord Police Department, and the IRS Criminal Investigations. The investigation was conducted and funded by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a multi-agency task force that coordinates long-term narcotics trafficking investigations.
Updated April 19, 2017