ATLANTA, GA. - A large Mexican drug trafficking organization operating in metro Atlanta has now been dismantled after an indictment and a series of federal arrests. The indictment and arrests were the result of a three year investigation, code-named “Operation G-60,” conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and coordinated through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program.
John S. Comer, Acting Special Agent in Charge (Acting SAC) of the DEA Atlanta Field Division said, “These arrests are a great example of what can be achieved when DEA works hand-in-hand with its law enforcement counterparts. These traffickers were clearly working under the direction of Mexican drug cartel leadership. The substances that they distributed clearly destroyed lives. DEA and our federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts are committed to making our communities safer by removing such drug traffickers from the streets.”
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said: “Operation G-60 has dealt a severe blow to the Mexican drug cartels operating in the metro Atlanta area. Earlier this morning, numerous alleged drug traffickers and money launderers were arrested in neighborhoods all across Atlanta. As a result of the outstanding investigative efforts of the DEA and our state and local partners, over seven million dollars worth of cocaine and over a million dollars in dirty drug money have been taken off of the streets. We will continue our aggressive investigation and prosecution of drug cartels who choose to set up operations in our community.”
IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Reginael McDaniel said, “The laundering of proceeds from drug trafficking is not only a local threat, but a global threat as well, as it supplies the fuel for drug dealers to conduct their criminal activity. Tracing the proceeds from selling the drugs and then seizing this money from the drug dealers is a critical factor in dismantling these criminal organizations, as it takes the profit out of the crime. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to providing financial expertise to these investigations.”
The investigation resulted in the seizure of 312 kilograms of cocaine (with an estimated wholesale street value of over $7 million), approximately 1,525 kilograms of marijuana and over $1.5 million in drug proceeds. In a criminal indictment handed down by a federal grand jury on May 11, 2011, 32 individuals have been charged for their participation in various criminal offenses, which include conspiring and possessing with intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine and at least 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, as well as related money laundering charges. The indictment also includes a forfeiture provision in which the United States seeks the forfeiture of all proceeds from the alleged criminal offenses.
The defendants arrested to date in connection with this investigation are:
The following defendants are federal fugitives:
According to United States Attorney Yates, and the charges and other information presented in court: From June 2008, the DEA conducted an investigation of a Mexico-based drug trafficking organization which had been operating in the Atlanta, Georgia area. The investigation revealed that the organization received multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and marijuana on a regular basis from Mexico. The organization was comprised of several drug trafficking “cells” in the Atlanta area, one of which was allegedly led by ADRIAN MARTINEZ-MONTANEZ, who employed ROBERTO PEREZ-MENDOZA as his lieutenant, along with FATIMA VASQUEZ. Another alleged cell head, MARIA MADRIZ-HERNANDEZ of Smyrna, also employed her daughter, SAMANTHA SEPULVEDA-MADRIZ, to distribute multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and collect thousands of dollars of drug proceeds.
During their investigation, agents also identified another alleged cell head, RAUL VALENCIA of College Park, who was an alleged source of supply for cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana, and supplied local drug distributors in the Atlanta area. VALENCIA associated with and/or employed MARTIN AYALA CASTENEDA, FELIX JOSE VARGAS, FAUSTO BUENO-ALVAREZ, JOSE VARGAS, CELEDONIO VICTOR ESTRADA, PEDRO PABLO GOMEZ-RIVERO, MANUEL ZUNIGA, and JOSE VALENCIA, who were allegedly responsible for transporting drugs and drug money, and maintaining “stash houses” and vehicles used by the organization in metro Atlanta.
The investigation further revealed that DAVID SANCHEZ of Johns Creek allegedly led a cell which distributed thousands of pounds of marijuana in the Atlanta area. SANCHEZ allegedly employed TOMAR SHAW, RUDY VALENCIA, and JUAN CASTINANDA for his drug trafficking activities. After distributing the drugs in the Atlanta area, the organizational members allegedly sent the drug proceeds back to Mexico by using wire remitting companies, such as the now defunct “Latino Mix,” which was allegedly owned and operated by SONIA SANCHEZ, who allegedly employed CARMEN BARBOSA MENDOZA AND MARIA DEL ROSARIO DIAZ-GARCIA.
The seizures of drugs, weapons, and U.S. currency include:
Earlier today, agents seized 75 pounds of marijuana, an assault rifle, a stolen handgun, and over $ 200,000 in suspected drug money from a residence located on Wakehurst Drive in South Fulton County. ROBERTO LOPEZ-MARTINEZ was charged with federal drug and weapons-related offenses in connection with this incident.
On April 3, 2011, agents seized 11 kilograms of cocaine. The drugs were seized by the Georgia State Patrol after a traffic stop in Atlanta, Georgia, and are allegedly tied directly to RAUL VALENCIA and his cell.
On February 8, 2011, agents seized 1,200 pounds of marijuana from a van after a traffic stop in the area of I-85 and Jimmy Carter Blvd, and are allegedly tied directly to RAUL VALENCIA and his cell.
On October 8, 2010, agents seized 15 kilograms of cocaine from a storage facility in Buford, Georgia. This drug seizure was allegedly tied to ADRIAN MARTINEZ-MONTANEZ’S cell.
On September 13, 2010, agents seized 24 kilograms of cocaine from a vehicle after a traffic stop in Gwinnett County, Georgia. The investigation revealed that this cocaine deal allegedly involved MARIA MADRIZ-HERNANDEZ’S and RAUL VALENCIA’S cells.
On September 8, 2010, agents seized 45 kilograms of cocaine in a vehicle's trunk after a traffic stop in Buford, Georgia. This drug seizure was allegedly tied to ADRIAN MARTINEZ-MONTANEZ’S cell.
On June 3, 2010, local law enforcement executed a search warrant at a residence in Stockbridge, Georgia, and seized approximately 100 pounds of marijuana. This drug seizure was allegedly tied to RAUL VALENCIA’S cell.
On May 3, 2010, agents seized approximately 110 kilograms of marijuana from a package shipped from Orange County, California to an auto repair shop in DeKalb County, Georgia. This drug seizure was allegedly tied to DAVID SANCHEZ.
On April 10, 2010, agents seized $953,000 in drug proceeds from two couriers in Birmingham, Alabama. Agents believe that the currency was destined for Mexico. This drug seizure was allegedly tied to ADRIAN MARTINEZ-MONTANEZ’S cell.
On November 7, 2009, agents seized 188 kilograms of cocaine and $110,000 in drug proceeds from a residence in Suwanee, Georgia pursuant to a federal search warrant. This drug seizure was allegedly tied to ADRIAN MARTINEZ-MONTANEZ’S cell.
On September 22, 2009, agents seized 40 kilograms of cocaine after a traffic stop in Gwinnett County, Georgia. This drug seizure was allegedly tied to ADRIAN MARTINEZ-MONTANEZ’S cell.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $4,000,000. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (Atlanta and Macon Field Divisions), the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), and the Internal Revenue Service, with valuable assistance provided by the Atlanta Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Clarkston Police Department, Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, Cobb County Police Department, Conyers Police Department, Covington Police Department, Doraville Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, East Point Police Department, Fulton County Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Patrol, Griffin Police Department, Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Loganville Police Department, Marietta Police Department, Roswell Police Department, Smyrna Police Department, Spaulding County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant United States Attorneys Lisa Tarvin, Michael Herskowitz, and Michael Brown are prosecuting the case. Kathryn Schneider of the Office of Enforcement Operations in Washington, D.C. has also provided valuable assistance in the investigation.
DEA AFD’s Acting SAC John S. Comer, encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at www.justthinktwice.com, www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com and www.dea.gov.