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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

DRUG CARTEL LEADER CHARGED_Juan Perez-Vargas, aka Piolin, Indicted as Part of Coordinated Nationwide Enforcement Efforts Against Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – October 16, 2018

SAN DIEGO – The Department of Justice announced today a series of measures to target and dismantle the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) – one of the largest, most dangerous drug cartels currently operating in Mexico. As part of those measures, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, announces the indictment of CJNG leader, Juan Perez-Vargas, aka Piolin.

A federal grand jury in San Diego returned a sealed indictment on January 27, 2017, charging Perez-Vargas, with Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances Intended for Importation, and Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances. On January 30, 2017, the Clerk of the Court issued a sealed warrant for his arrest. On September 20, 2017, Perez-Vargas was arrested in Guadalajara, Mexico pursuant to these charges in the United States and is currently awaiting extradition to San Diego.

CJNG is one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico and the Department of Justice considers it to be one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world, responsible for trafficking numerous tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States. Founded in 2011, CJNG has grown in size and strength rapidly since its inception. Today, the DEA estimates the CJNG exerts influence in 23 of 31 (75 percent) of Mexican states, including key drug production and transportation corridors. CJNG is also responsible for significant amounts of violence and loss of life in Mexico. CJNG gained its power in Mexico as a result of the organization’s disciplined command and control, sophisticated money laundering techniques, efficient drug transportation routes, and extreme violence. The cartel has also expanded globally, with significant presence and illicit business not only throughout the United States and Mexico, but also Europe, Asia, and Australia.

The unsealed indictment marks the conclusion of the initial phase of a multi-year OCDETF investigation. This joint Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation targeted the leadership elements, lieutenants, associates, and money launderers connected with CJNG, the Rafael Caro-Quintero (RCQ) DTO and Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO).

“With today’s announcement, the Attorney General has made clear the Department’s focus on dismantling transnational criminal organizations,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman. “This indictment proves yet again that the Southern District of California will take the lead to relentlessly target and bring to justice the most significant drug kingpins no matter where they operate.”

U.S. Attorney Braverman also praised the outstanding work of the federal team from HSI Calexico / DEA Imperial County in the culmination of this investigation. U.S. Attorney Braverman also thanked Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Enforcement Operations and the Office of International Affairs for their ongoing assistance in this investigation.

“Today’s Indictment is an example of the dedicated and collaborative efforts by HSI Calexico and DEA Special Agents,” said David Shaw, Special Agent in Charge for HSI San Diego.  “This joint effort allowed for the opportunity to narrow the investigation, identify more high level targets and significantly impact the cartel leadership structure. HSI agents remain committed to working with our partners and prosecutors in bringing additional members of this transnational criminal organization to justice.”

“Together with our law enforcement partners, DEA continues to target and take down some of the highest-level drug traffickers in the world,” said DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “CJNG is in our crosshairs and this indictment reflects that we will ensure that drug traffickers pay a very high price for their crimes.”

This case is also the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

DEFENDANT                                                                       Case Number 17CR219-CAB               

Juan Perez-Vargas, aka Piolin                                 Age: 37                   Guadalajara, Mexico                   


Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances for Purpose of Unlawful Importation, in violation of Title 21 U.S.C. §§ 959, 960 and 963; Term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life imprisonment, $10,000,000 fine and 5 years supervised release.

Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances, in violation of Title 21 U.S.C. §§ 952, 960 and 963. Term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life imprisonment, $10,000,000 fine and 5 years supervised release.


Homeland Security Investigations

Drug Enforcement Administration

Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations

United States Marshals Service

Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces

Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations

Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs

Customs and Border Protection, Office of Border Patrol

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Enforcement and Removal Operations

El Centro Police Department

Brawley Police Department

Imperial County District Attorney’s Office

Imperial Valley, Law Enforcement Coordination Center


*An indictment or complaint is not evidence that the defendant committed the crimes charged. The defendant is presumed innocent until the Government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Drug Trafficking
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Sutton (619) 546-8941
Press Release Number: 
Updated October 16, 2018