21 Defendants Convicted During Three-Year Investigation Into Drug Trafficking and Criminal Activities Led by Inmates Inside State Prison Walls Using Contraband Cell Phones
OKLAHOMA CITY – Nineteen individuals have been charged in an indictment unsealed today with conspiring to distribute multiple kilograms of heroin and methamphetamine from sources in Mexico and elsewhere, announced U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing. As of today, federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers have arrested 17 of these defendants as part of an operation that involved executing fourteen search warrants and seizing firearms, illegal drugs, and U.S. currency.
"Consistent with this administration’s prioritization of opioid enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will work closely with law enforcement to keep heroin off of Oklahoma streets," said U.S. Attorney Downing. "I could not be more pleased about this successful series of arrests and the cooperation among law enforcement that makes an operation of this sort possible."
"Today is a great day for the citizens of Oklahoma," said Clyde E. Shelley, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. "The DEA, along with partners from numerous federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, have dismantled a heroin trafficking organization responsible for distributing large amounts of this dangerous drug across the state of Oklahoma."
John P. Scott, Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge of DEA’s Oklahoma District, said: "This case is a perfect example of the outstanding collaboration and partnerships that the law enforcement community has here in the state of Oklahoma. This case was developed over the last two years, spanning multiple states and judicial districts. It would not have been possible without the efforts of the case agents, task force officers, and prosecutors who work tirelessly to rid our community of those determined to make money off of selling drugs that devastate communities and destroy lives."
The defendants charged in the indictment are:
Defendants Rocha-Teran, Gonzalez-Herrera, Legorreta-Torres, Artemio Gonzalez, De Leon, and Sanchez-Mijangos are citizens of Mexico.
According to the indictment, from December 2015 to the present, each defendant was a member of a conspiracy that distributed one kilogram or more of heroin and 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. It is alleged that Rocha-Teran, Legorreta-Torres, Artemio Gonzalez, De Leon, Contreras-Acosta, and Sanchez-Mijangos acquired multiple kilogram and pound quantities of heroin and methamphetamine from sources in California, Nevada, Mexico, Texas, and elsewhere for re-distribution in the Oklahoma City area. Certain conspirators allegedly stored the drugs at specific addresses in Oklahoma City. They are alleged to have used coded language in cell phone conversations to facilitate the distribution.
In addition to one count of conspiracy, the indictment charges various defendants in 37 counts of possession with intent to distribute, 17 counts of using a telephone to facilitate a drug felony, and four counts of maintaining a premises for the purpose of distributing drugs.
On August 20, officers from a variety of federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies executed a coordinated series of arrests and searches in Oklahoma and Nevada. Including first responders, more than 200 personnel were involved in the operation. The August 20 takedown resulted in 14 arrests in various parts of Oklahoma. One additional defendant was arrested today. All fifteen of these defendants are being arraigned this afternoon at 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Shon T. Erwin. In addition, Contreras-Acosta was arrested on August 6 in Texas and is being held in the Dallas County Jail, and De Leon was arrested on August 14 in Oklahoma City and is been held in the Oklahoma County Jail.
Defendants Angel Artemio Gonzalez and Rosalynn Zaragoza have not been apprehended and are considered fugitives. Law enforcement believes Artemio Gonzalez is in the Ontario, California, area and that Zaragoza is in the Oklahoma City area.
In the course of arresting defendants, law enforcement officers have seized a total of more than 16 pounds of heroin, more than three pounds of methamphetamine, eight firearms, and approximately $30,000 in U.S. currency. The amount of heroin seized is the equivalent of approximately 30,000 individual doses.
The following agencies assisted in bringing these defendants into custody and searching locations associated with them:
If found guilty of conspiracy, each defendant faces up to life in prison and a minimum mandatory sentence of ten years, as well as supervised release of up to life and a fine of up to $10,000,000. Convictions on counts charging possession with intent to distribute would carry maximum sentences of 20 years, 40 years, or life, depending on the drug amounts alleged in each count. Each count of using a telephone to facilitate a drug felony would carry a maximum sentence of four years upon conviction. And a conviction on the counts charging maintaining a drug-involved premises would carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.
This indictment is the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force ("OCDETF"), which coordinates the investigation and federal prosecution of the highest priority drug trafficking organizations. This prosecution also falls within the parameters of the Western Oklahoma Opioid Enforcement Team, which brings together federal, state, and tribal law enforcement to focus on attacking illegal opioids, such as heroin. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David P. Petermann and Matthew P. Anderson.
The public is reminded that these charges are merely allegations and that each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Reference is made to public filings for more information.