ATF seal
ATF text
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

News Release

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, January 24, 2024
Contact: Ginger Colbrun, Ginger.Colbrun@atf.gov

ATF/DEA/LAPD Take Down San Fernando Valley Drug Trafficking Ring

Over 16 Firearms, 44 lbs. of Meth, 128 lbs. of Cocaine, 6 lbs. of Fentanyl and $300,000 Seized

LOS ANGELES – Seven members of a San Fernando Valley drug trafficking crew were indicted on a 15-count federal grand jury indictment alleging they ran an operation that sold cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl. Law enforcement arrested four of the seven defendants earlier this morning.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) led the three-year joint investigation that included numerous controlled buys and interdictions of narcotics.

Giselle Buraye, 23, aka “Giselle Haidy Dykhouse,” aka “Bandida,” aka “bandida.loka,” of Van Nuys; Efren Meraz Jr., 35, aka “Jr.,” aka “Junior,” of Sylmar; Max Roman-Betancourt, 41, of Sunland; and Esteban Armas, 36, of Panorama City, were arrested. Those arrested are scheduled for arraignment this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Oscar Alejandro Melendez, 50, aka “Ozzy,” aka “Oz,” of Van Nuys, and Robert Carlton Lavilette, 68, of Ventura, are expected to be arraigned in the coming days.

Sarkis Kyurkchian, 40, aka “Z,” aka “Sam,” of North Hollywood, is a fugitive and is being sought by law enforcement. 

As part of this case, law enforcement seized 19 kilograms (42 pounds) of methamphetamine, 58 kilograms (128 pounds) of cocaine, 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of fentanyl powder and two firearms. Law enforcement estimates that the value of the drugs seized exceeds $1 million. Throughout this case, more than $150,000 in U.S. currency was seized.

During search warrants executed today at five locations in the San Fernando Valley, law enforcement seized more than 14 firearms, 2 pounds of methamphetamine, $153,000 in U.S. currency and various narcotics.

“Reducing violent crime in our community and throughout our country is the priority of ATF,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Bombardiere. “This case illustrates the importance of genuine relationships between law enforcement agencies to keep our communities safe. Stopping the illegal and highly dangerous flow of narcotics by this ring will make the Valley safer tonight.”

“The culmination of this investigation is an example of the strong partnerships built between federal and local law enforcement agencies focused on combatting drug and gun trafficking,” said DEA Ventura Resident Office, Resident Agent in Charge Ryan Olson. “Members of this criminal organization were involved in the distribution of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs that are poisoning our communities. DEA is committed to making our communities safer by removing violent offenders and dangerous drugs from the streets. We will continue to push forward and utilize all necessary resources to dismantle the largest criminal organizations negatively impacting our communities.”

“Powerfully addictive drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine devastate families and communities,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada. “With these charges we have dismantled a drug trafficking organization that put profits over people’s lives. We will continue to do everything in our power to make sure every resident has an opportunity to live in safety.”

According to the federal grand jury indictment, Buraye, Melendez and Meraz spearheaded the operation by obtaining the fentanyl pills, methamphetamine and cocaine. The trio, along with Kyurkchian, would provide the drugs to Lavilette and Bentancourt, who would then sell the drugs in the streets. Armas would store the narcotics. Buraye and Melendez would also sell the drugs to customers.

All defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances.

Buraye is also charged with possession and intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession and intent to distribute fentanyl and distribution of fentanyl. In March 2022, she sold more than 700 fentanyl pills in controlled purchases. 

On April 14, 2021, Buraye and Mendez allegedly sold approximately 1,000 fentanyl pills and were charged with aiding and abetting, and distribution of fentanyl. 

On April 28, 2021, a controlled sale occurred with Buraye selling approximately 100 fentanyl pills and brokering a sale by Kyurkchian (a previously convicted felon who is prohibited from possessing a firearm) of a .45 caliber pistol and 893 grams (approximately 1.9 pounds) of methamphetamine, the indictment alleges. This resulted in Kyurkchian being charged with being a felon in possession and aiding and abetting with distribution of methamphetamine. 

According to the indictment, on May 12, 2021, Buraye, Melendez and Kyurkchian sold 1,323 grams (approximately 2.9 pounds) of methamphetamine, 110 fentanyl pills and a privately made firearm or “ghost gun.” They are charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl.

Melendez and Meraz on Feb. 17, 2022, allegedly provided Lavilette with approximately 1 kilogram (approximately 2.2 pounds) of cocaine. Lavilette was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

On March 10, 2022, Melendez attempted to deliver 6,377 grams (approximately 15 pounds) of methamphetamine to Betancourt but he was interdicted by law enforcement while enroute. Following his arrest, Melendez using coded language in a telephone conversation from jail to tell Buraye he had been arrested and instructed her to get rid of drugs at their shared residence.

A search warrant was executed on May 19, 2022, at Armas’s residence and law enforcement seized 2,504 grams (approximately 5.5 pounds) of fentanyl powder, 57 kilograms (approximately 125 pounds) of cocaine, 10.92 kilograms (approximately 24 pounds) of methamphetamine and $152,602 in drug proceeds.

The Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force (L.A. IMPACT), IRS Criminal Investigation and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office assisted in this investigation.

This case is the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, ATF, DEA and IRS. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, firearms trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply. OCDETF uses an intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney MiRi Song is prosecuting this case.

FUGITIVE

Sarkis Kyurkchian, 40, aka “Z,” aka “Sam,” of North Hollywood

Sarkis Kyurkchian, 40, aka “Z,” aka “Sam,” of North Hollywood

Sarkis Kyurkchian, 40, aka “Z,” aka “Sam,” of North Hollywood

###
 

Los Angeles Field Division