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Press Release

Patriarch of Family Drug Trafficking Ring Pleads Guilty, Faces 35 Year Sentence for Distribution of Fentanyl, Cocaine, Meth and Heroin

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

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph S. Green (619) 546-6955 and Lara W. Worm (619) 546-9697

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – January 7, 2016

SAN DIEGO – Hugo Adalberto Adrian Ramirez pleaded guilty this afternoon to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and fentanyl in connection with a family drug trafficking ring that Ramirez directed.

Ramirez entered his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen S. Crawford and remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing on March 7, 2016 at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes.

According to admissions in court and in his plea agreement, Ramirez conspired with family members, including his wife, sister, two adult children, and nephew, to distribute controlled substances within Southern California and to various locations throughout the United States, including the New York/New Jersey area and North Carolina.

According to his plea agreement, the government will recommend a sentence of no more than 35 years.

Ramirez directed and participated in all aspects of the conspiracy, including acquiring and negotiating the sale of controlled substances, conducting and directing counter-surveillance of law enforcement, and collecting drug proceeds.  As a part of the conspiracy, Ramirez frequently changed his cellular telephone in a failed attempt to thwart law enforcement.

Ramirez also used his minor children to promote the conspiracy, including directing minor children to run errands, pass messages, and conduct counter-surveillance of law enforcement officers investigating Ramirez’s activities.

Ramirez admitted to organizing numerous shipments of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin to sub-distributors in North Carolina, including approximately 6.6 kilograms of methamphetamine and 57.4 grams of heroin seized by law enforcement agents on August 22, 2014.  Ramirez also admitted to the distribution of multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and fentanyl to sub-distributors in New Jersey, including approximately 3 kilograms of cocaine and 1 kilogram of fentanyl seized by law enforcement agents on May 23, 2014.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate considered 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is typically administered to people in chronic pain, including end-stage cancer patients, and is also used as an anesthetic during surgery. Just a small amount – even a few grains - can be fatal.  Authorities across the country have noted an increase in fatal overdoses of heroin that is spiked with fentanyl.

“This family operated a cross-country drug network that supplied users with dangerous and potentially deadly drugs like fentanyl,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “With this final plea out of 12 arrested defendants, we have interrupted the supply and hopefully kept users from making a tragic mistake.”

“It is important that the residents of San Diego are aware of the danger of this powerful and potentially lethal drug,” says DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman. “DEA will continue to investigate and arrest distributors and manufacturers of this poison.  It is marketed as a better high than heroin, but this clandestinely manufactured fentanyl is hundreds of times more potent than heroin.”

Kynan Barrios, Special Agent-In-Charge with the Bureau of Land Management in California stated, “Collaboration among law enforcement is vital to combating complex transnational criminal organizations that use America's public lands to smuggle dangerous drugs across international borders. These actions cause environmental degradation and threats to public safety throughout California as well as other states. The BLM is committed to ensuring these lands are safe to visit and remain healthy for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Ramirez’s guilty plea marks the 12th guilty plea in this case.  Ramirez’s family members who participated in the conspiracy have received sentences ranging from 14 months to 10 years.  Ramirez’s wife, Maria Ayala, received a sentence of 70 months following her guilty plea to laundering money in furtherance of the family’s drug trafficking operation. His son, Hugo Norberto-Adrian, Jr., received a sentence of 10 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

Co-defendant Sonja Shenelle Holder, a New York rapper known as “Sonja Blade,” who pled guilty to money laundering charges in connection with this case on October 27, 2015, is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday, January 11, 2016.  In her plea agreement, Holder admitted to laundering approximately $326,545 in cash to promote the acquisition of narcotics.

This investigation was conducted under the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. The OCDETF program was created to consolidate and utilize all law enforcement resources in this country’s battle against major drug trafficking.

DEFENDANTS                                            Criminal Case No: 14-CR-3057                   Sentence

Hugo Adalberto Adrian Ramirez                   42                    Corona, CA                             Pending          

Hugo Norberto-Adrian Jr.                              21                    Corona, CA                             120 months

*Paul Dwight Doyley                                     49                    Ashbury Park, NJ                    Fugitive

Sonja Shenelle Holder                                                37                    Brooklyn, NY                         Pending

*Victor Jesus Gastelum                                  44                    Unknown                                Fugitive

Sandra Bustos Juarez                                      32                    Charlotte, NC                         87 months

Alberto Mina                                                   38                    Charlotte, NC                         87 months

Noe Mina                                                        26                    Charlotte, NC                         87 months

Ricardo Mendoza                                           36                    Ontario, CA                            Pending

Crystal Adrian                                                            19                    Corona, CA                             15 months

Ghazi Catalan                                                 22                    Unknown                                Pending

Marvin Ventura Soto                                      25                    Huntington Park, CA              120 months

Maria Ayala                                                    44                    Corona, CA                             70 months

Sara Gricelda Adrian                                      41                    Corona, CA                             14 months



Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances in violation of Title 21, U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 846; Maximum Penalties: Life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million dollar fine.


Drug Enforcement Administration

Bureau of Land Management

Internal Revenue Service

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

San Diego Police Department

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations

Fontana Police Department

Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

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





Updated January 7, 2016

Drug Trafficking
Press Release Number: CAS16-0107-Ramirez