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Press Release

Forty-Seven Defendants Charged in Imperial Valley Takedown of Drug Trafficking Network Linked to Sinaloa Cartel

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

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – June 5, 2024

EL CENTRO – Fourteen indictments were unsealed in federal court today charging 47 alleged members of an Imperial Valley-based, Sinaloa Cartel-linked fentanyl-and-methamphetamine distribution network with drug trafficking, firearms and money laundering offenses.

In a coordinated takedown this morning, more than 400 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials arrested 36 defendants and executed 25 search warrants in Imperial County, San Diego, Fresno, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Salem, Oregon. As of this afternoon, the search continues for 11 fugitives.

Including seizures today and throughout the long-term investigation, authorities have confiscated more than four kilograms of fentanyl, which amounts to about two million potentially fatal doses; more than 324 kilograms (over 714 pounds) of methamphetamine; significant quantities of cocaine and heroin; and 52 firearms, including handguns and rifles.

The investigation also resulted in the arrest of Alexander Grindley for alleged methamphetamine trafficking while employed as a U.S. Border Patrol agent, and multiple spin-off investigations in this district and others.

Crimes charged in the indictments include drug trafficking, money laundering and gun-related offenses. Court documents indicated the defendants were operating throughout the Imperial Valley—in Brawley, El Centro, Westmoreland, Imperial, Calexico, Niland, Holtville, Calipatria—and in Mexicali, Mexico.

“With this takedown, the Justice Department has dealt yet another blow to the Sinaloa Cartel and its associates,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “I am grateful to the more than 400 law enforcement officers whose work in this operation resulted in dozens of arrests, charges against 47 defendants, and the seizure of firearms, meth, cocaine, heroin, and two million potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. We will continue to be relentless in our fight to protect American communities from the cartels.”

“This investigation tore apart a drug trafficking network responsible for supplying dealers in communities across the region,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “But there is still much work to be done. If you’re a parent, and today’s price of fentanyl terrifies you, talk to your kids about the dangers of drug use. If you’re an addict, and your dealer was arrested today, seek treatment. And if you’re a dealer but your supplier was arrested today, look out – we are coming for you next.”

“The Department of Homeland Security and our federal, state and local partners are unrelenting in our work to keep deadly fentanyl off our streets and bring those who traffic in it to justice,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “The indictments unsealed today are the direct result of our multipronged and coordinated law enforcement approach – one that utilizes all of our government’s resources and capabilities. Together, we are preventing fentanyl and other deadly drugs from being produced, distributed, or consumed, and saving countless lives.”

“Today’s coordinated operation, involving, over 400 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, marks a decisive blow against an Imperial Valley-based, Sinaloa Cartel-linked distribution network and significantly disrupts the flow of dangerous drugs into our communities,” said Katrina W. Berger, Executive Associate Director for Homeland Security Investigations. “This operation is a testament to the power of law enforcement collaboration and our unwavering commitment to bringing these criminals to justice.”

“Today, the El Centro Border Patrol Sector teamed with allied law enforcement agencies to support both Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Attorney’s Office of San Diego in this operation,” said El Centro Sector Chief Gregory Bovino. “Our successful collaboration should be a reminder to criminal organizations in the Imperial Valley and elsewhere that justice will be served.”

“This operation shows what can be accomplished when there is collaboration between federal and local law enforcement agencies,” said Imperial County District Attorney George Marquez. “The Imperial County District Attorney’s office will continue to work together with our partners to bring to justice those that harm or are a danger to our community.”

According to the indictments and search warrants, the defendants belonged to various trafficking organizations that were part of an extensive network supplying all of Imperial County and beyond with dangerous drugs.

According to court records, on June 30, 2021, agents seized two pounds of methamphetamine and a cache of ghost guns and ammunition, including: 15 lower receivers, three upper receivers, multiple barrels and stocks, 18 magazines, 40 Luger 9mm rounds and approximately 400 rounds of .223 Red Army ammunition, which are made in Russia. None of the firearms or firearm parts had any identifying serial numbers or markings. They were all ghost guns.  Wiretap intercepts showed that defendant Cory Gershen supplied other members of the organization with ghost guns in exchange for methamphetamine. The investigation also revealed the assault rifles (depicted below) were destined for the organization’s source of supply in Mexico.