For Immediate Release
Federal Indictment Charges 7 With Gun and Narcotics Trafficking
6 Arrested Today on Charges Alleging Sale of 47 Firearms and 11 lbs. of Meth
LOS ANGELES – Federal and local authorities this morning arrested six defendants, the majority of whom are members of the El Sereno Rifa street gang, on federal weapons and narcotics charges stemming from a nearly yearlong undercover operation in which authorities purchased approximately 11 pounds of methamphetamine and 47 firearms, including ghost guns and so-called “cop killer” handguns.
A federal grand jury on May 12 returned a 28-count indictment that charges seven defendants with various offenses, including methamphetamine trafficking, conspiring to illegally deal in firearms, and firearms trafficking. The indictment was unsealed this morning after the arrests by special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and officers with the Los Angeles Police Department.
In conjunction with this morning’s arrests, investigators conducted a series of searches that resulted in the seizure of another eight firearms.
“Drug trafficking and the illegal distribution of high-powered weapons brings an unacceptable level of danger to our communities,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “The action today is our office’s second significant sweep related to gang activity this week, and it signals that we are taking concrete steps to deal with violent crime across the region. We will continue to work with our federal and local partners to address violent crime and allow our community to take back their neighborhoods from violent gangs.”
“ATF reduces violent crime by partnering with local law enforcement to identify, investigate, and arrest those who illegally supply firearms to prohibited individuals, and by targeting previously convicted felons who possess firearms,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Hoffman. “ATF works tirelessly to rid our communities of this violent criminal activity by gang members. ATF is committed to its partnership with LAPD and will continue to eradicate these career criminals from our communities, so we can all feel safer.”
The lead defendant in the case – Ernesto Echeverria, aka “Bad Boy” and “Gordo,” 40, of East Los Angeles – was involved in all of the transactions outlined in the indictment, typically by personally participating in the drug and gun deals, but sometimes by linking up buyers with suppliers.
Between June 22, 2022, and May 2, 2023, Echeverria and his associates, in nearly two dozen transactions, sold or brokered 47 firearms, according to the indictment. Those weapons included short-barreled rifles, ghost guns with no serial numbers and an array of handguns, including three FN Five-sevens – nicknamed “cop killer” guns because the rounds fired from these firearms are capable of penetrating most types of body armor that police officers wear.
Echeverria also participated in 10 methamphetamine transactions involving up to 1.3 kilograms of the drug in each transaction.
In a narcotics sales involving 1.2 kilograms of methamphetamine and in eight of the gun transactions outlined in the indictment, Echeverria allegedly was assisted by Oscar Barrientos, aka “Chato,” 40, of East Los Angeles.
The indictment also charges that Echeverria, Barrientos and three other defendants illegally possessed firearms after being convicted of felony offenses.
In addition to Echeverria and Barrientos, the indictment charges:
- Fernando M. Martinez III, aka “Lil Sharky” and “Sharky,” 19, of East Los Angeles;
- Michael A. Murillo, 29, of Montebello;
- Adam W. Garcia, aka “Oso,” 43, of East Los Angeles;
- Arnold R. Salas, aka “Guerro,” 50, of West Covina; and
- Daniel Carrillo, 30, of Long Beach, who is currently being sought by authorities.
The defendants arrested this morning are expected to be arraigned on this indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant committed a crime. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The indictment alleges 11 counts of distribution of methamphetamine, most of which carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of life.
The charges of conspiracy and engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license have a maximum penalty of five years. The offenses of trafficking in firearms and being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition each carry a statutory maximum penalty of 15 years.
The ATF; the Los Angeles Police Department, Central Bureau, Hollenbeck Division; and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Major Crimes Bureau are conducting the investigation in this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Nisha Chandran of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section is prosecuting this case.