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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Thirty-Seven Gang Members Charged in Crackdown of North County Heroin, Methamphetamine and Firearms Traffickers

 

SAN DIEGO – Eleven federal indictments unsealed in San Diego today charge 37 defendants with heroin, methamphetamine and firearms trafficking, in many cases within feet of North County schools.

 

The crackdown announced today is the latest in a series of efforts by the Department of Justice to turn the tide of the opioid epidemic and reduce the inevitable violent crime that accompanies widespread drug trafficking.

 

Early this morning, more than 100 members of the North County Regional Gang Task Force, the FBI SWAT team, plus other law enforcement agencies made numerous arrests and, both today and during the course of the investigation, searched more than a dozen locations in Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos, and elsewhere in North County.

 

As of today at noon, 27 of the 37 defendants are either in federal or state custody. Twenty one were arrested this week, including 18 this morning; the rest were already in custody. Authorities are continuing to search for 10 defendants. Many of the defendants are scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin at 2:00 p.m. today and tomorrow.

 

These yearlong investigations involved months of federal wiretaps, dozens of undercover drug and gun buys and extensive surveillance. Many of the defendants are documented members or associates of violent North County street gangs operating out of Encinitas, San Marcos, Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad, Escondido, and elsewhere. Many of these gang have long-standing ties to the Mexican Mafia. In total, authorities seized heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl and firearms, including a semi-automatic pistol, revolvers, and a two AR-15 style assault rifles.   

 

These drugs and guns were being stored and sold in North County neighborhoods, including near Libby Lake Park and across the street from several schools – Jefferson Middle School, Clair W. Burgener Academy, Mission Elementary School, San Marcos High School, and Joli Ann Leichtag Elementary School.

 

“We have a special resolve to go after gangs that have the audacity to operate on the boundaries of our schools, where children play and learn,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman. “The gangs are always on our radar, but when they endanger our most precious and vulnerable population – our children - we will act decisively.”

 

Through one investigation, the gang task force targeted major heroin and methamphetamine distribution cells led by North County street gang members. This investigation was initiated in the fall of 2016 after two gang-related homicides in North County. Anticipating additional violence, the gang task force set forth a plan to dismantle gang-related drug trafficking and violence in North County. As part of this investigation, the gang task force targeted Adrian Gomez, aka “Bandit,” a known Carlsbad gang member, methamphetamine distributor, and felon, who was found in possession of ammunition and a semi-automatic pistol.

 

The gang task force also targeted Theresa Lapolla, who was found in possession of over 100 grams of heroin at her home, located less than 700 feet from three Oceanside schools. She was charged with possession with intent to distribute over 100 grams of heroin within 1000 feet of a school — a charge that doubles the maximum punishment to 80 years in prison.

Fugitives 2-28-2018

This investigation also targeted Robert Gonzalez, aka “Sleepy,” a Carlsbad gang member living in Oceanside’s Posole neighborhood. Months of federal wiretaps showed that Gonzalez was a prolific heroin and methamphetamine distributor who controlled drug sales in that neighborhood, which is a Posole territory located off the I-5 freeway and Highway 76 in Oceanside. In fact, Gonzalez sold narcotics every single day of the roughly three-month wiretap on his telephones. Gonzalez did so by working with multiple gang members and associates to distribute drugs to dozens of customers in and around Oceanside. Gonzalez typically met with his customers and sub-distributors in the parking lots of Wal-Mart, Harbor Freight, Mission Donuts, Burger King, El Super, and a local methadone clinic, all within Oceanside. 

Area Map

Another investigation by the gang task force targeted Encinitas Flats gang member Colin Jones as a high-volume heroin and methamphetamine dealer throughout North County. On June 8, 2017, Jones was arrested after investigators learned through electronic surveillance that he had a loaded AR-style assault rifle in his vehicle. Agents located him at the Pala Indian Casino with the rifle on his front passenger seat and additional ammunition and heroin in the car. Jones is charged with conspiracy to import heroin, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin and felon in possession of ammunition.

 

Jones and his co-conspirators are accused of distributing narcotics in a variety of locations, including near schools. For example, according to court documents, Jones met with a San Marcos gang member at an Albertson’s across the street from San Marcos High School in late April to conduct a narcotics transaction.  At other times, Jones and other co-conspirators operated out of a large private parcel of land directly across from Joli Ann Leichtag Elementary School in Vista.

 

According to court documents, some of the drugs in these investigations were obtained in Tijuana, Mexico, and then North County Gang members used unsanitary methods to sneak heroin and methamphetamine across the border: They repeatedly smuggled small quantities of narcotics in body cavities, via pedestrian lanes at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border crossings. Because of the method the conspirators used to smuggle drugs into the United States, which limited the amount that could be smuggled at a given time, Jones would travel to Mexico approximately every five days to replenish his supply of narcotics.  Between October 7, 2016 and June 4, 2017 (four days before Jones was arrested in this case), Jones crossed from Mexico into the United States approximately 38 times, with the most recent being on June 4, 2017.  Jones typically crossed late at night via the pedestrian lanes.

 

“The FBI and our law enforcement partners at the North County Regional Gang Task Force won’t accept when gang activity coupled with drugs, firearms and violence infests our communities,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John A. Brown.  “The FBI will continue to pursue violent gang members and work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to keep our communities safe.”

 

“The Oceanside Police Department supports the efforts of the San Diego County Gang Task Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in identifying, arresting and prosecuting those that sell and distribute drugs and advocate violence,” said Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy.

 

“This investigation illustrates that these violent street gangs will not prosper in our communities”, says DEA San Diego Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Woodland.  “With the cooperation of all law enforcement agencies involved, these offenders are now off the streets.”

 

U.S. Attorney Braverman praised the task force for the coordinated team effort in the culmination of this investigation. Agents and officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, Oceanside Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Bureau of Prisons, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Marshals Service, California Highway Patrol, and the Escondido and Carlsbad Police Departments collaborated on this investigation. Attorneys from the Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations, Electronic Surveillance Unit, also provided critical assistance to the investigation. 

 

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.

 

The United States is represented in court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Mokhtari, Janaki S. Gandhi and Matthew J. Sutton.

Middle School
AR-15 style rifle
Pistol
Elementary School



Defendant Information

 

DEFENDANT                                                                      Criminal Case No: 17CR1791-JLS

Name

Age

Hometown

Colin Kenneth Jones

AKA “Frosty”

29

Vista, CA

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Felon in Possession of Ammunition (Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 922(g)(1));
Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and Heroin (Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 841(a)(1), 846);
Conspiracy to Import Heroin (Title 21, U.S.C, Secs. 952, 960, 963).


Maximum Penalties: For heroin charges: 40 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, and a $5 million fine. For methamphetamine charge: life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and a $10 million fine.  For firearms charges: 10 years’ in prison, and a $250,000 fine.

 

DEFENDANTS                                                                   Criminal Case No: 18CR0872-JLS

Name

Age

Hometown

Ikaika Ryan Chung
AKA “Chino”

38

Encinitas, CA

Luis Armando Garcia
AKA “Junior”

35

San Marcos, CA

Lauren Nicole Valenzuela
AKA “Huera”

23

Surprise, AZ

Christopher Tiburski*

39

Escondido, CA

David Alfaro
AKA “Stranger”

23

Encinitas, CA

Edgar Delgadillo
AKA “Big E”

24

Encinitas, CA

David Loera*
AKA “Porky”

37

Encinitas, CA

Ramon Caldera
AKA “Evil”

37

San Marcos, CA

Mark Thomas Reed

39

San Diego, CA

Matthew Wayne Truax

34

Escondido, CA

Megan Renee Brown

32

Encinitas, CA

Melissa Sue Borst

37

Orange County, CA

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin and Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 841(a)(1) and 846); Importation of Heroin (Title 21, U.S.C. Secs. 952 and 960). 

 

Maximum Penalties: For the conspiracy charge, life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million fine. For the importation of heroin charges, 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

 

DEFENDANTS                                                       Criminal Case No: 18CR0873-JLS

Name

Age

Hometown

Anthony Michele DiGiovanni

34

El Cajon, CA

Kimberly Marie Lawson

34

El Cajon, CA

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy to Import Heroin and Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 952, 960, 963);

Importation of Heroin and Methamphetamine (Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 952, 960).

 

Maximum Penalties: For conspiracy charge: life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million fine. For importation charges, one charge carries a maximum 40 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 5 years, and $5 million fine; the other two charges carry a maximum 20 years in prison and $1 million fine.

 

DEFENDANT                                                          Criminal Case No: 18CR0874-JLS

Name

Age

Hometown

John Nicholas Hernandez

AKA “Hitman”

36

Los Angeles, CA

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Use of a Communication Device in Drug-Trafficking Offense (Title 21, U.S.C., Sect. 843(b))

Maximum Penalties: 4 years in prison, $250,000 fine

 

 

DEFENDANT                                                          Criminal Case No: 18CR1006-JAH

Name

Age

Hometown

Marco Antonio Flores

AKA “Tripps”

38

Oceanside

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Distribution of Heroin, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1).

 

Maximum Penalties: 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

 

DEFENDANT                                                          Criminal Case No: 18CR1007-JAH

Name

Age

Hometown

Adrian Gomez

AKA “Bandit”

42

Oceanside

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Felon in Possession of Ammunition and Firearm, in violation of Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 922(g).

 

Maximum Penalties: 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

 

DEFENDANTS                                                       Criminal Case No: 18CR1008-JAH

Name

Age

Hometown

Robert Gonzalez

AKA “Sleepy”

41

Oceanside

Luis Campos

AKA “Monster”

45

Oceanside

Daniel Santiago-Martinez

AKA “Tiny”

26

Oceanside

Martin Rodriguez

AKA “Osama”

30

Oceanside

Sergio Caro

AKA “Soldier”

41

Carlsbad

Raul Lopez

AKA “Lalo,” aka “Speedy”

38

Oceanside

Francisco Arzola

AKA “Spanky”

50

Oceanside

Irma Urena

41

Oceanside

Mario Alcantar

39

Oceanside

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 841(a)(1) and 846.

 

Maximum Penalties: 40 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years and a $5 million dollar fine.

 

DEFENDANT                                                          Criminal Case No: 18CR1009-JAH

Name

Age

Hometown

Cesar Herrera

AKA “Froggy”

56

Oceanside

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Distribution of Heroin, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1).

 

Maximum Penalties: 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

 

DEFENDANT                                                          Criminal Case No: 18CR1010-JAH

Name

Age

Hometown

Theresa Lapolla

52

Oceanside

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Possession with Intent to Distribute Heroin Within 1000 Feet of a School, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 841(a)(1) and 860.

 

Maximum Penalties: 80 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years and a $10 million fine.

 

DEFENDANT                                                          Criminal Case No: 18CR1011-JAH

Name

Age

Hometown

Amando Carrasco Martinez

AKA “Cowboy”

34

Vista

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Distribution of Methamphetamine, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1).

 

Maximum Penalties: Life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million fine.

 

DEFENDANTS                                                       Criminal Case No: 18CR1012-JAH

Name

Age

Hometown

Benjamin Martinez

AKA “Knuckles”

24

Oceanside

Miguel Silva

AKA “Mikey”

23

Oceanside

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Secs. 841(a)(1) and 846;

Distribution of Methamphetamine, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1).

 

Maximum Penalties: Life in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a $10 million fine.

 

 DEFENDANT                                                         Criminal Case No: 18CR1013-JAH

Name

Age

Hometown

Ray Soto

56

Oceanside

 

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Distribution of Methamphetamine, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sec. 841(a)(1).

 

Maximum Penalties: 40 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years and a $5 million fine.

 

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

AGENCIES

 

North County Regional Gang Task Force, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, Oceanside Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Bureau of Prisons, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Marshals Service, California Highway Patrol, and the Escondido and Carlsbad Police Departments.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Press Release Number: 
CAS18-0228-NCRGTF
Updated February 28, 2018