MINNEAPOLIS, MN. – March 7, 2011 – A year-long federal drug investigation, “Operation Pitchfork”, resulted in three federal indictments recently filed against a total of 15 alleged members of a drug trafficking organization. Following the initial court appearances of several of the defendants last week, the indictments were unsealed.
The first indictment was filed on February 24, 2011 and charged 13 defendants for methamphetamine offences in the Minnesota area between 2008 and February of 2011. The following 13 individuals were charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine:
In addition, eight of the above defendants were charged with actual distribution of methamphetamine. Busto-Magaran was charged with ten counts; Vasquez-Avila, six counts; Soto-Chavez, four counts; Mendoza-Cabrera, Abriz, Bustos-Valle, and Hernandez-Bustos, two counts each; Charollamora and Talavera-Blanco, one count each. Charollamora, Nelson, and Ryan were also charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
If convicted, the defendants face a potential maximum penalty of life in prison on the conspiracy charge, 40 years on each distribution count, and 40 years on each possession with intent to distribute count. All sentences will be determined by a federal district judge.
In the second indictment, filed on February 24, 2011, the following individual is charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute 50 or more grams of methamphetamine, one count of distribution of methamphetamine, and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine:
The indictment alleges that from August 31, through September 9, 2010, Perez-Robles conspired with others to distribute methamphetamine. In addition, on August 31, Perez-Robles distributed 50 or more grams of methamphetamine, and on September 9, he possessed with intent to distribute an additional 50 or more grams of methamphetamine.
According to a law enforcement affidavit filed in the case, on September 9, 2010, Perez-Robles was stopped on U.S. Highway 52 for a traffic violation. During a consent search of his vehicle, officers recovered approximately one pound of methamphetamine concealed in a plastic bag under the front passenger seat. Perez-Robles was then placed under arrest and it was learned that Perez-Robles was awaiting sentencing in the District of Minnesota on a previous cocaine conspiracy charge. On September 14, 2010, he was sentenced to 70 months imprisonment for the previous charge. If convicted in the present case, Perez-Robles faces a potential maximum penalty of life in prison on each charge. Sentencing will be determined by a federal district judge.
The following individual was indicted on February 24, 2011 on one count of illegal re-entry after deportation:
Soto-Pina was identified as an associate of Busto-Magaran. The indictment alleges that on June 11, 2010, he was found in the U.S. illegally after having been previously deported to Mexico. The deportation followed a 2009 Minnesota conviction for first-degree sale of a controlled substance. If convicted, Soto-Pina faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 year imprisonment. All sentences will be determined by a federal district judge. In addition, after serving any sentence imposed, Soto-Pina will be deported.
The investigations in these cases were conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the St. Paul Police Department, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, the Bloomington Police Department, the Minnesota State Patrol, and the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The investigations occurred in California and Minnesota. So far, 13 people have been arrested, and authorities have seized nearly two pounds of methamphetamine, approximately $350,000 in cash, two handguns, and a vehicle.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas M. Hollenhorst is prosecuting all three of these cases.
The public is reminded that an indictment is a determination by a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe that offences have been committed by a defendant. A defendant is presumed innocent until he or she pleads guilty or is proven guilty at trial.