Twenty-nine members and coconspirators of a drug trafficking organization with ties to Mexico’s New Generation Cartel have been indicted for their alleged roles in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiring to possess and distribute heroin, money laundering and other related charges.
The charges were announced Tuesday at a press conference in Tulsa by U.S. Attorney Trent Shores for the Northern District of Oklahoma; Resident Agent in Charge David King of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Tulsa Office; Resident Agent in Charge Robert Melton of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations’ Tulsa Office; Senior Deputy Oklahoma Attorney General Joy Thorpe; and Deputy Chief Dennis Larsen of the Tulsa Police Department.
“Operation Smack Dragon targeted a transnational heroin distribution organization based out of Mexico and operating in Tulsa. With this Indictment, we hope to disrupt and dismantle this organization’s operations in Tulsa and elsewhere,” said U.S. Attorney Shores. “The 29 defendants charged today are only a start to our multi-state and multi-agency takedown. The investigation continues thanks to the tireless and dedicated efforts of the men and women of law enforcement.”
The indictment alleges that the Giovanni Drug Trafficking Organization began a heroin distribution network run out of Mexico, with operations led from Tulsa, as early as November 2017. The alleged organization imported, processed, and distributed approximately two kilograms of heroin per week throughout the Northern District of Oklahoma and elsewhere, using multiple levels of distribution to get the drug into the hands of users. The United States Attorney’s Office notes that an indictment is merely an accusation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. This criminal indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on May 9, 2019, and was unsealed on May 14.
According to the Indictment, the alleged transnational criminal organization’s hierarchy had clearly defined roles, as leaders from Mexico supplied heroin to the Tulsa “cell heads.” These “cell heads” were originally from Mexico but lived in Tulsa. Stille Giovanni Gutierrez Vivanco, allegedly directed, from Mexico, the overall drug trafficking operations in Tulsa by delegating responsibilities for the import and distribution of the heroin and for the movement of the proceeds from heroin sales. According to the Indictment, the criminal organization smuggled heroin into the United States and transported the drug to storage locations in Tulsa where they prepared it for distribution throughout the United States. After preparing the heroin, the coconspirators would repackage it for distribution to mid-level distributers, who would then redistribute it to street-level dealers until it eventually found its way into the hands of customers.
The indictment alleges that a select group of redistributors were the only group that would contact the “cell heads” in Tulsa directly. The “cell heads” in Tulsa included a person responsible for driving drugs up from Mexico, a person responsible for distributing drugs to the top level of distributors, and a person in charge of getting the organization’s money funneled back to Mexico. The conspirators allegedly laundered the proceeds from heroin sales using money remitter businesses in Tulsa. As part of the money laundering operations, the defendants utilized nominee names to transmit funds through wire transfers from Oklahoma and elsewhere to Mexico. A “nominee name” is used to hide the true recipient of the money.
According to the Indictment, Stille Giovanni Guiterrez Vivanco, 34, is alleged to have led this international drug trafficking organization. “Cell heads” included Jose Garcia, 36, of Tulsa, and Edson Garcia-Velasquez, 25, of Tulsa. Norman Fabian Huerta Avalos, 36, served in various capacities, including coordinating assignments for other organization members and serving as dispatch.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations led the investigation in partnership with the U.S. Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service- Criminal Investigation; the Oklahoma State Attorney General’s Office; and Tulsa Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel-lyn McCormick is prosecuting this case. AUSA McCormick is the Lead Attorney for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Unit for the Northern District of Oklahoma.