News Release
Date: April 04, 2012
Contact: Special Agent Ramona Sanchez
Number: 602 664-5725

High Ranking Sinaloa Drug Trafficking Organization and Two Others Indicted For Methamphetamine, Money Laundering

April 4 (Phoenix) – On April 3, 2012, a federal grand jury in Phoenix returned a three count indictment against three members of the Sinaloa Drug Trafficking Organization: Jose Rocha-Avendano, of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico; Martin Gamez-Meza, 41, of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico; and Alejandro Corrales-Figueroa, 43, of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, conspiracy to import methamphetamine from Mexico to the United States and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“Jose Rocha Avendano was a key figure in the violent drug trade of the Sinaloa Cartel,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. “The scope of this investigation is exemplified by the large quantities of drugs that were seized as well as the millions of dollars in illegal drug profits they laundered.  From the kingpins to the street dealers, our combined goal is to dismantle these drug trafficking organizations and put them out of business.”

“The indictment of a large scale drug trafficker operating in Arizona, while physically located in Sinaloa, Mexico, shows that the United States will vigorously pursue those criminals seeking to use the Arizona corridor to move their drugs into the United States and their illicit proceeds back to Mexico,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel. “High level drug traffickers will find that the border does not serve as a barrier to protect them from prosecution in these cases.”

“Multi-agency investigations are the most effective means to dismantle sophisticated drug trafficking organizations. IRS-CI contributes the financial investigators and expertise that is critical to analyzing the financial transactions and locating the money." said Dawn Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Office of Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.

“ICE Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to dismantle drug trafficking organizations that recklessly and violently destroy lives on both sides of the border,” said Matt Allen, special agent in charge of HSI in Arizona.  “HSI special agents will use all the tools at our disposal to ensure these criminals are brought to justice.”

The indictment alleges that Rocha-Avendano is a high ranking member of the Avendano Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) operating out of Sinaloa, Mexico. The indictment further alleges that Avendano ran a drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy that operated, in part, in Arizona from Sept. 1, 2006 through April 3, 2012. It is alleged that Gamez-Meza and Corrales-Figueroa conspired with Rocha-Avendano to carry out the objectives of the DTO. The organization allegedly imported large amounts of methamphetamine from Mexico into the United States and returned the drug proceeds to Mexico. The funds were allegedly transferred in a manner to disguise their origin and were used to promote on-going drug trafficking and money laundering activities. The organization allegedly utilized residential properties (stash houses) in the United States and Mexico, and hidden compartments in passenger vehicles to traffic the drugs and money. The indictment contains a $3 million forfeiture allegation.

A conviction for the drug distribution and importation conspiracies carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, a $10,000,000 fine, or both. A conviction for the money laundering conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, or both. In determining an actual sentence, U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Martone will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. Judge Martone, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.

An indictment is simply a method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Department of Homeland Security. The prosecution is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, Phoenix.