Harrisonburg, VIRGINIA – A federal grand jury sitting in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg has indicted 12 members of Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), a Mexican-based criminal organization considered by the Department of Justice to be one of the five most dangerous transnational organizations in the world, on federal drug conspiracy charges, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced today.
“CJNG is one of the most dangerous drug cartels in the world, and its members and associates are actively operating in the Shenandoah Valley and Southside Virginia,” United States Attorney Cullen stated today. “Dismantling organized drug activity and staunching the flow of deadly substances like heroin and cocaine into our communities are among my top priorities as U.S. attorney. I am grateful that our federal, state, and local partners share this goal and for their hard work during the course of this investigation.”
“This investigation demonstrates the extensive reach of Mexican drug cartels and the dangers posed by their presence and activities in the Western District of Virginia and across the Commonwealth,” said Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge of DEA Washington Field Division. “The DEA will continue to work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to hold these powerful cartels accountable for the destruction they cause.”
In an indictment returned under seal on March 5, 2019, and unsealed today following the initial court appearance of two defendants, the grand jury charges:
According to the indictment, between January 2015 and February 2019, the defendants trafficked multiple kilograms of cocaine, heroin and marijuana from Mexico into the United States. As part of the alleged conspiracy, CJNG members recruited individuals from Mexico to reside in Axton and Winchester, Virginia to facilitate the distribution of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana.
As part of the conspiracy, it is alleged that the defendants maintained a series of residential properties in and around Axton for the purpose of receiving, storing, packaging, and distributing multiple kilograms of cocaine and multiple pounds of marijuana which they had received directly from members of CJNG. These drugs were then allegedly shipped to Winchester, and elsewhere throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, for redistribution.
In addition, the indictment charges Sanchez-Rios, who owns and operates a money transmitting business, with money laundering. Between May 2016 and September 2018, Sanchez-Rios transmitted funds that she knew had been derived from a criminal offense, specifically drug trafficking.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force (NWVRDGTF), the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, and the Virginia State Police. Assistance was provided by the Winchester Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Erin M. Kulpa and Sean Welsh are prosecuting the case for the United States.
This investigation was funded in part by the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program. The OCDETF program supplies critical federal funding and coordination that allows federal and state agencies to work together to successfully identify, investigate, and prosecute major interstate and international drug trafficking organizations and other criminal enterprises.
The NWVRDGTF uses the combined efforts of local, state, and federal agencies to actively pursue those groups or individuals who manufacture, distribute, or sell illegal narcotics. The NWVRDGTF is comprised of the Virginia State Police, the Winchester Police Department, the Front Royal Police Department, the Strasburg Police Department, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, the Page County Sheriff’s Office, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office.
A Grand Jury Indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendants are entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.