119 Individuals Charged in Three Countywide Law Enforcement Operations

January 26, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on January 25, 2012 released the following:

“Two Mexican Mafia Members and 117 San Diego County, California Street Gang Members and Associates with Ties to the Mexican Mafia Charged with Racketeering Conspiracy, Drug Trafficking Violations, and Firearms Offenses

119 Individuals Charged in Three Countywide Law Enforcement Operations

SAN DIEGO—A federal grand jury in San Diego has handed up 17 indictments and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California has filed eight criminal complaints charging a total of 119 defendants with federal racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking violations, and federal firearm offenses, announced U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Laura E. Duffy.

U.S. Attorney Duffy said, “The cases unsealed today make communities stronger and safer. The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to an anti-gang, anti-violence strategy built on close coordination between federal, state and local officials. This coordination provides better intelligence about street gangs and violent crime within our communities. And better intelligence means better law enforcement and prosecutions.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Keith Slotter commented, “Today’s arrests mark one of the largest single takedowns in San Diego FBI history. The FBI and our law enforcement partners stand unified in our efforts to protect this county from the violence, drug trafficking and extortion schemes employed by the Mexican Mafia and its affiliates. San Diego is inherently safer today because of the cooperation between our agencies working together to disrupt and dismantle the criminal activities of these dangerous individuals.”

“This is a traditional case of dishonor amongst thieves,” commented San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. “Gangs were made to pay ‘taxes’ in order to facilitate their trafficking and violent behavior. We answered with a one-two punch: a strong and experienced multi-agency investigation, armed with the RICO statute. The results speak for themselves.”

The charges stem from three investigations entitled, “Operation Notorious County,” “Operation Carnalismo,” and “Operation 12-Step.”

“Operation Notorious County”

The indictments are the result of an 18-month-long investigation entitled, “Operation Notorious County,” led by the North County Regional Gang Task force. Eight indictments charging 51 individuals, including one charging 40 defendants with participating in a federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy were unsealed today. All five indictments were handed up by a federal grand jury sitting in San Diego on Jan. 19, 2012. The RICO conspiracy alleged in the indictment involves the commission of both state and federal crimes, including attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, money laundering, and drug trafficking violations. As set forth in the indictment, the defendants are members, associates and facilitators of violent street gangs operating primarily in north San Diego County under the auspices of the Mexican Mafia or “La Eme.” The gangs named in the indictment include the Diablos and West Side gangs, based in Escondido, Calif., as well as the Varrio San Marcos and the Varrio Fallbrook Locos. The individuals named in the indictment were involved in a long-standing criminal enterprise used to extort money by threat or violence. The money was then sent on to high-ranking members of the Mexican Mafia, including defendant Rudy Espudo. The indictment alleges that Espudo is a validated member of the Mexican Mafia who oversees their activities throughout much of northern San Diego County.

“Operation Carnalismo”

In “Operation Carnalismo,” led by the Violent Crime Task Force-Gang Group, a group of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents led by the FBI, five indictments charging 36 individuals were unsealed today. Eight defendants are charged in one indictment with a conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity (RICO), violent crime in aid of racketeering (VCAR), distribution and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin and criminal forfeiture. Four additional indictments, charging 28 defendants were also unsealed. These related indictments charge distribution and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and criminal forfeiture. All five indictments were handed up by a federal grand jury sitting in San Diego on Jan. 24, 2012, and unsealed today. The RICO indictment charges the criminal enterprise was run by Mexican Mafia member Salvador Colabella. Colabella and his associates conspired to distribute methamphetamine and heroin, extorted and robbed others, and laundered drug-trafficking proceeds. Colabella and his associates collected the extortion payments through the threat of violence and the commission of violence. According to the indictment, the Mexican Mafia has about 200 members, but its reach extends to thousands of Hispanic street-gang members in Southern California. A Mexican Mafia member is the highest level one can attain in the Mexican Mafia. A member, also called “Brother” or “Carnal” or “Tio,” controls, exploits and profits from the criminal activity conducted by street-gang members and others. This control over the criminal activity is enforced through acts of violence or the threat of violence.

“Operation 12-Step”

This year-long investigation, known as “Operation 12-Step,” was led by the East County Regional Gang Task Force, a group of federal and state law enforcement led by the FBI and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Operation 12-Step focused on gang-related methamphetamine distribution activities in San Diego County. Today four indictments and eight complaints were unsealed charging 32 individuals with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. According to court records, individuals charged in this investigation belong to nine different criminal street gangs including Varrio Chula Vista, East Side Piru, Old Town National City, Shelltown, National City Locos, Imperial Beach Imperials, Paradise Hills, Varrio Encanto Locos and National City Block Boys. Between Feb. 22, 2011, and Dec. 13, 2011, law enforcement made more than 20 methamphetamine and heroin seizures in connection with this investigation. In addition, search warrants were executed at eight residences in San Diego; Spring Valley, Calif.; National City, Calif.; Imperial Beach, Calif.; and Chula Vista, Calif..

U.S. Attorney Duffy praised the coordinated effort of the law enforcement agencies of the Violent Crimes Task Force-Gang Group, the East County and North County Regional Gang Task Forces under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for the coordinated team effort culminating in the charges filed in these cases. The OCDETF program was created to consolidate and utilize all law enforcement resources in this country’s battle against major drug trafficking.

The cases are being investigated by the FBI, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the National City, Calif., Police Department; the San Diego Police Department; the Escondido, Calif., Police Department; the Carlsbad, Calif., Police Department; the U.S. Marshals Service; the La Mesa, Calif., Police Department; the El Cajon, Calif., Police Department; the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Bureau of Prisons; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the San Diego County Probation Department; Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations; and Customs and Border Protection-United States Border Patrol.

The cases are being prosecuted in San Diego federal court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter Mazza, Jaime Parks, Fred Sheppard and Tara McGrath.

An indictment or a complaint are 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.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Thirteen Facing Federal Criminal Charges by Criminal Complaint and Indictments for Trafficking Heroin in Albuquerque

July 22, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Mexico on July 21, 2011 released the following:

“THIRTEEN FACING FEDERAL CHARGES FOR TRAFFICKING HEROIN IN NORTHEAST HEIGHTS OF ALBUQUERQUE

ALBUQUERQUE – United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales announced that thirteen defendants have been charged with federal heroin trafficking offenses based on an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the New Mexico State Police (NMSP), the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) that targeted heroin traffickers operating in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights.

The defendants, who are charged in individual criminal complaints and indictments, were arrested following an investigation led by the DEA and pursued under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program, a Department of Justice nationwide initiative that combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated attack against major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The investigation was initiated in March 2011 in response to reports that young adults in Albuquerque, including students enrolled in high schools in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, are becoming addicted to expensive prescription painkillers like “OxyContin,” and then transitioning to heroin, a drug that provides a similar high for less money, sometimes with tragic consequences. In 2010 and earlier this year, Haley Paternoster, Michael Duran, Jr., and other Albuquerque teens reportedly died from overdoses after they transitioned from OxyContin to heroin, and statistics from the New Mexico Department of Health reflect that heroin overdose deaths among New Mexicans between 17 and 24 have increased steadily over the past few years. The investigation specifically targeted local heroin dealers who allegedly supplied heroin to young adults, teenagers and other high school aged children in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights neighborhoods.

The following Albuquerque residents are charged in individual indictments: Michael Nafe, 21, Nathaniel Paul, 26, Jose Torres, 25, and David Witt, 25. Rebecca Corral, 27, Isaac Ortiz, 21, Jordan Padilla, 23, and Raelynn Sanchez, 26, all residents of Albuquerque, individually are charged in criminal complaints. Anthony Martinez, 20, and Fernando Trujillo, 19, both residents of Espanola, also are charged in criminal complaints. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 20- years of imprisonment and a $1,000,000 fine.

Corral, Ortiz, Padilla, Sanchez, and Witt were arrested on July 21, 2011, and made their initial appearances in Albuquerque federal court this morning. Martinez and Trujillo were arrested this morning and are scheduled to make their initial appearances on July 22, 2011. Nafe and Torres currently are detained in the Metropolitan Detention Center awaiting transfer to federal custody. Torres’s initial appearance is scheduled for July 28, 2011 while Nafe’s initial appearance has yet to be scheduled. Paul has yet to be apprehended and is considered a fugitive.

Three other defendants previously were arrested as part of this investigation. Mexican national Pedro Enrique Torres-Mier, 29, was arrested on March 9, 2011 on heroin trafficking charges in a criminal complaint, and was indicted on March 22, 2011. Torres-Mier, who has been in federal custody since his arrest, entered a guilty plea to count one of a three-count indictment earlier today. On May 19, 2011, Adam Anthony Vallejos, 20, and Eddie Travis Centeno, 21, both Albuquerque residents, were arrested on an indictment charging them with, heroin trafficking offenses. Centeno is detained pending trial while Vallejos was released under pretrial supervision. If convicted, each of these three defendants faces a maximum penalty of 20-years of imprisonment and a $1,000,000 fine.

In announcing the results of this investigation, United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said, “Teenage prescription drug abuse and the concomitanttransition to heroin is a scourge that is sneaking into far too many of our families. This scourge does not discriminate, but instead is impacting all families, including those with no history of prior abuse.

Investigation and prosecution of those who prey on our children is not enough to defeat this scourge. All of us need to get the word out on the perils of prescription drug abuse, especially those confronting our children. To prevent teenage drug abuse, we need to get the word out not only to our children, but also to their parents, teachers and coaches and we need to learn to recognize the warning signs of drug addiction. And we need to do this before yet another child dies as a result of an overdose.”

“In this investigation, DEA targeted drug dealers who were preying on the youth of New Mexico. The resulting indictments and arrests further our efforts to prevent heroin trafficking from taking hold in our community. Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our community, especially our young people.” said Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration-El Paso Division.

These cases were investigated by the DEA, NMSP, APD and the USMS, and are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Elaine Y. Ramirez.

Charges in complaints and indictments are only accusations. All criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Eighteen Members of Nationwide Marijuana Trafficking Organization Charged

June 20, 2011

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on June 17, 2011 released the following press release:

FBI and IRS Agents Arrest 12 Who Face Fraud and Money Laundering Charges

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Eighteen individuals have been charged in the Eastern District of Virginia for allegedly participating in a nationwide distribution ring smuggling high-quality marijuana from grows in northern California to mid-level dealers in numerous states throughout the country. After coordinated arrests yesterday, 17 conspirators are in custody and one remains a fugitive: Marvin Powers, Jr., a/k/a “Marv,” 39, of Vallejo, Calif.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Robert B. Wemyss, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service; Earl Cook, Alexandria Chief of Police; and Colonel David Rohrer, Fairfax County Chief of Police, made the announcement after the case was unsealed.

“We have dismantled a significant, national drug ring that allegedly made millions trafficking marijuana and recruited college athletes to target fellow students for drug sales,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Marijuana is an addictive, dangerous gateway drug that often leads users to graduate to other deadly narcotics. Distributors often rely on guns and physical violence to enforce debts and ensure the success of their business, allured by the potential for significant profit peddling contraband. We’re grateful to the tight partnership of the agencies who worked together to bring charges against those in every level of this organization.”

According to court documents, the ring is led by Anthony Guidry, Sr., a/k/a “Ant,” 46, of Vallejo, Calif., who allegedly trained and now works with three other men as interconnected wholesale dealers of marijuana they either grow or purchase from growers in northern California. From 2005 through the present, the conspirators are accused of taking orders for various marijuana strains and shipping multi-pound quantities to suppliers in more than a dozen states. The complaint affidavit states that many conspirators carry firearms while conducting drug sales and use weapons and assault to intimidate those who have not paid, including targeting the young children of those in debt to conspirators.

Guidry is allegedly focused on extending his enterprise to as many states as possible, recruiting distributors from all walks of life, including college athletes, to help open distribution centers in cities and college campuses in Virginia, Georgia, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Court records indicate that he controls more than 20 bank accounts that conspirators use to deposit proceeds from marijuana sales in whatever state sales are made. To avoid law enforcement detection, Guidry allegedly also hires individuals to fly around the country to pick up bulk cash payments and return to California. Court documents state that Guidry is the owner of a company named “Daddy’s Girl Handyman,” which is based out of his residence and is allegedly a front for him to launder illicit drug proceeds and appear to have legitimate income. He is accused of using drug proceeds to purchase multiple homes, vehicles, and a boat. In a two year period, investigators allege he received deposits of nearly $1 million into his various accounts.

According to the affidavit, Guidry would obtain wholesale marijuana for as little as $1,200 a pound, which he would sell for as much as $5,000 per pound at the retail level. Investigators conservatively estimate that the conspiracy has generated at least $2 million in profit during the course of the conspiracy. Prior to arrest, law enforcement had seized 71 pounds of marijuana and $161,980 in money orders from the conspirators.

Court records indicate that the ring was uncovered through the arrest of Moataz Mohammad Masoud, a/k/a “Mo,” “Fat Mo,” or “Gyp,” 26, of Alexandria, Va., in Alexandria on Jan. 12, 2010. While detained on marijuana distribution charges, court documents state that Masoud telephoned other conspirators to ensure that they continued his marijuana dealing operation. This arrest and ensuing investigation contributed to the initiation of the overall investigation that resulted in today’s charges.

All 15 individuals were charged with conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison if convicted. Court documents indicate that additional charges carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment may also be filed against certain co-conspirators. In addition to Guidry, those charged include:

  • James Cody Cutri, 22, of Springfield, Va., is alleged to be the leader of a marijuana and oxycontin distribution network based in the Eastern District of Virginia and extending into West Virginia. Court records indicate that he has received marijuana from Johnson for at least five years and is the largest and most lucrative of Johnson’s distribution outlets. Cutri works with Masoud; Nahom Hagos, a/k/a “Fat Boy,” 23, of Alexandria, Va.; and Yonata Noah Hagos, a/k/a “Yoni,” “Yone,” or “Little Black Boy,” 24, of Alexandria, Va., on retail sales of marijuana.
  • Justin Dacory Johnson, a/k/a “Jay,” 23, of Pittsburg, Calif., is alleged to be a wholesale dealer with a distribution network in several states and is the primary supplier to Cutri and his network operating in the Eastern District of Virginia. Cristina Delores Patino, 28 of Pittsburg, Calif., is alleged to be the live-in girlfriend of Johnson who assists him in packaging and shipping marijuana to others in his network.
  • Munir Abdalla Saad, a/k/a “Saad Munir Abdalla,” 36, of Benicia, Calif., and Powers are alleged to be wholesale dealers who work closely with Guidry in operating the marijuana ring, along with operating their own distribution networks. Saad is allegedly working with Guidry on renting property in California to grow marijuana.
  • Noe Briones, 26, of Rodeo, Calif., is alleged to be a marijuana grower and one of Johnson’s regular marijuana suppliers. Court documents state that he rents a home in Sacramento, Calif., that he refers to as “the ranch” where he is running one of his marijuana grow operations.
  • Nathaniel Scott Wilson, a/k/a “Nate,” and Jeremiah Adam Wilson, a/k/a “Jay,”—twin brothers, 26, of Atlanta, Ga.—are alleged to operate a distribution outlet from Atlanta, Ga., for Guidry.
  • Julius Jamar Watson III, a/k/a “Ju Ju,” 23, of Sacramento, Calif., is alleged to be a distributor for Guidry and, according to court documents, is helping to establish distribution outlets in Pennsylvania and New York.
  • Tracy Christopher King, a/k/a “T.C.,” 44, of Norfolk, Va., is alleged to have established a distribution network for Guidry in the Tidewater area of Virginia, particularly at local colleges and the beaches on the Eastern Shore.
  • Tiffany Nicole Solorio, a/k/a “Tiff,” 22, of Rio Linda, Calif., is believed to be Guidry’s daughter or stepdaughter. She is alleged to receive between work for Guidry and Johnson transporting tens of thousands of dollars in proceeds via commercial airline from members of the distribution ring and returning them to Guidry and Johnson in California.
  • Anthony Scott Giuliani, a/ka/ “Ant,” 44, and Annette Marie Ross, 51, of Covelo, Calif., are alleged to be growers who supply Guidry with high-grade marijuana.
  • Robert Williams, 22, of Springfield, Va., was discovered by law enforcement at Cutri’s residence at the time of Cutri’s arrest on June 16, 2011, and was found to have allegedly possessed a .40-caliber pistol, $11,000 in cash, and bundles of marijuana.

Today’s charges are a result of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation being conducted by the FBI Washington Field Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Alexandria and Fairfax County police departments. Assistant United States Attorneys Sean P. Tonolli and Lisa Owings are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Criminal complaints are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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