News Release
November 9, 2007
DEA Special Agent Jose Martinez
(213) 621-6762

Operation Bell Bottoms Targets Counterfeiting, Drug Operation In Los Angeles-Area Clothing Stores

NOV 9 -- A multi-agency task force this morning arrested a dozen people who face federal charges, including narcotics trafficking, selling counterfeit goods and crimes designed to conceal large sums of cash from authorities.

Today’s arrests and two over the weekend are the result of a two-year investigation into criminal conduct in and around clothing stores in the Los Angeles area. The investigation focused on the activities of Ali Khalil Elreda, his siblings and his associates. During the investigation, law enforcement has seized 30 kilograms of cocaine and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit clothing.

The task force that dismantled the Elreda criminal operation today was comprised of agents and officers with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, IRS - Criminal Investigation, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The task force received substantial assistance from the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the California Methamphetamine Multi-Jurisdictional Enforcement Team, Customs and Border Protection, the Inland Regional Narcotics Enforcement Team, the Pomona Police Department, the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department and the Chino Police Department.

The defendants arrested today are:
Ali Khalil Elreda, 32, of Bell;
Mohamad Elreda (Ali’ s brother), 25, of Bell;
Susanne Elreda (Ali’ s sister), 34, of Smyrna, Georgia;
Hussein Saleh Saleh, 37, of Bell;
Robert Bell, 36, of Corona;
Dalisa Johnson, 37, of Corona;
Moussa Matar, 48 , of Cudahy;
Mohamad Matar (Moussa’ s son), 28, of Cudahy;
Ali Matar (Mohamad’ s twin brother), 28, of Cudahy:
Juan Gonzalez, 26, of Lynwood;
Frankie Higuera, 24, of Downey; and
Crystal Hill, 25, of Hawthorne.

The defendants arrested this morning are expected to make their initial appearances this afternoon and tomorrow before a United States Magistrate Judge in Los Angeles.

Two more defendants in the case – Epifanio Mercado, 29, of Perris, and Ricardo Nava, of El Monte – were arrested over the weekend. There are currently three fugitives in the case: Hassan Saleh Saleh (Hussein’ s brother), 36; Juan Galindo, of Cudahy; and Alfonso Bernal Barron. The federal charges are outlined in four criminal complaints and two indictments that w ere unsealed this morning.

The Elreda siblings are named in one complaint that alleges they trafficked in counterfeit goods through a store called Hip Hop Connections. The second complaint charges Alil Elreda and seven others with conspiring to distribute narcotics, specifically cocaine. Mercado and Nava are charged with conspiring to traffic in cocaine in a third complaint. Hussein Saleh is charged in a complaint with trafficking in counterfeit goods through his store, Star City A & H. One indictment charges Ali Elread and Hassan Saleh w ith smuggling cash out of the United States. The second indictment charges the Maters w ith structuring cash transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements.

During the investigation $123,000 w as seized from Ali Elreda, who was attempting to smuggle these funds out of the United States inside a child’ s toy. The maximum penalty for the defendants charged with conspiring to distribute narcotics is life w ithout parole in federal prison. The maximum penalty for the defendants charged w ith trafficking in counterfeit goods is 10 years in federal prison. The charges related to concealing cash from authorities carry maximum penalties of five years in prison.