Federal agencies arrest 10 in drug trafficking ring in St. Louis and Phoenix
ST. LOUIS - The Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and Homeland Security Investigations arrested 10 people Tuesday, including seven in the St. Louis area and three in Phoenix, on charges that include conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. Defendants are expected to be presented in federal court today. Among those charged were:
- Teresa Mejia-Palacios, 31, of St. Louis City;
- Reyman Ordonez Colmenero, 39, of Phoenix, AZ;
- Rafael Leon-Barradas, 37, of St. Louis City;
- Ramon Perez-Alonso, 36, of Collinsville, IL;
- Gavino Pelayo Echevarria, 28, of St. Louis City;
- Omar Ramirez-Villanos, 28, of St. Louis County;
- Luis Alonso Gomez-Celaya, 36, of St. Louis City;
- Cindy Hinojo-Ruiz Ramos, 45, of St. Louis City;
- Norma Leticia Rivera-Hernandez, 33, of Phoenix, AZ; and
- Vanessa Eliserio, 33, of Phoenix, AZ
The previously sealed indictment of August 5, 2020, includes the following charges: (1) Leon- Barradas, Perez-Alonso, Ramirez-Villanos, Gomez-Celaya, and Hinoja-Ruiz Ramos are charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine; (2) Mejia-Palacios and Echevarria are charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of actual methamphetamine; and (3) Colmenero and Rivera- Hernandez, and Eliserio are charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
The indictment charges Echevarria with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Leon-Barradas is also charged with illegal reentry in to the United States after having been previously removed to Mexico. Gomez-Celaya is further charged with illegal reentry into the United States after having been previously removed to Honduras.
“This investigation shows that drug trafficking organizations have networks that extend across the country, and that DEA investigators, along with our federal partners of FBI, HSI and the Marshals, will follow those connections wherever they go,” said Special Agent in Charge William J. Callahan, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration St. Louis Division. “With multiple arrests like in this case, the goal is to destroy the network and stop these organizations from peddling their poison in the streets of St. Louis.”
This case is being investigated by the following law enforcement agencies: DEA St. Louis Division, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Marshals Service.
As is always the case, charges set forth in the indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.
These arrests were made as part of Operation LeGend. Operation LeGend was launched in Kansas City, Mo., on July 8, 2020, and expanded to Chicago and Albuquerque on July 22, 2020; to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee on July 29, 2020; to St. Louis and Memphis on Aug. 6, 2020; and to Indianapolis on Aug. 14, 2020. As part of Operation Legend, Attorney General Barr has directed federal agents from DEA, the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and ATF to surge resources to these cities to help state and local officials fighting violent crime. The Department of Homeland Security is also contributing agents to these efforts in St. Louis.