March 28, 2011
Contact: Erica C. Curry
Phone Number: (602) 664-5600
Drug Trafficking Ring Taken Down
11 Indicted on Drug Trafficking Charges; Allegedly Imported and Distributed Heroin, Methamphetamine, Cocaine and Marijuana
TUCSON, AZ - . - Federal authorities have broken up a drug trafficking organization operating along the United States-Mexico border. The organization is allegedly responsible for trafficking kilo quantities of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine into the United States from Mexico, according to a case unsealed on Thursday.
On Wednesday, agents from a multi-agency task force led by the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested three defendants in and around Phoenix and Rio Rico, Arizona as part of “Operation Charro Negro.” The DEA and its partners also seized approximately 15 pounds of heroin, 14 pounds of methamphetamine, 1 kilogram of cocaine, and 350 pounds of marijuana during the course of the investigation. Seven other suspects named in the federal indictment -- Oscar Castro-Gonzalez, Cruz Javalera-Heredia, Holme Soto-Salazar, Sergio Romero-Duarte, Miriam Selene Araujo-Mendoza, Omar Francisco Quevedo, and Marco Antonio Mendoza-Contreras have warrants for their arrest and remain fugitives.
The others apprehended and in custody are, Agustin De La Rosa-Acosta, Gustavo Aron Lopez, Oscar Ivan Valdes-Espinosa and Abraham Patricio Lugo-Ruelas.
“Operation Charro Negro dealt a major blow to a significant poly-drug trafficking organization whose tentacles stretched across northern Mexico to the neighboring cities of Arizona,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. “By dismantling this group, DEA and our partners have removed large quantities of drugs and powerful weapons off our streets. Law enforcement is at its best when we combine our assets, unite and stand strong against those who try to poison our communities."
“These indictments struck to the heart of a highly dangerous Mexican drug trafficking organization responsible for poisoning our communities with major amounts of heroin, meth, cocaine and marijuana,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke. “Because of a strong cooperative effort by law enforcement, this ring has been broken and their ill-gotten cargo is off the streets.”
The defendants in custody were charged Wednesday with 12 counts, including Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin, Methamphetamine, Cocaine and Marijuana.
A conviction for these counts carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, and up to a $4 million fine. In determining an actual sentence, the assigned United States District Court Judge will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.
An indictment is simply the 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 operation was conducted by a multi-agency task force through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task (OCDETF). The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the DEA with the assistance of the Tucson Police Department, Marana Police Department, Nogales Police Department, Phoenix Police Department, Mesa Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Homeland Security Investigations Unit within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The prosecution is being handled by Anthony E. Maingot, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona.