DOJ Seal

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of California

For Immediate Release

Thursday, September 19, 2019
Robert S. Brewer Jr.
, United States Attorney
Contact: Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Sutton

Massive Takedown Targets East County Drug Trafficking Networks

Eighty-Five Defendants Charged for Distributing Methamphetamine, Heroin, and Fentanyl

SAN DIEGO – Eight indictments were unsealed today in San Diego federal court charging 85 members of drug distribution networks linked to the Sinaloa Cartel, with federal drug trafficking, money laundering and firearms offenses.

During the coordinated takedown that began early this morning, investigators executed over a dozen search warrants and seized approximately four pounds of methamphetamine and two firearms. As of today at 1 p.m., 47 of the 85 defendants are either in federal or state custody. Authorities are continuing to search for 38 defendants. Many of the defendants are scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison H. Goddard at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

According to the indictments and other publicly filed court documents, this year-long investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service targeted multiple San Diego-based drug distribution and money laundering networks led respectively by Juan Carlos OCHOA, Rene VALDEZ Jr., Ramon CASTILLO, Michael WRIGHT, Alfonso ARROYO, Douglas BOWEN, Samuel BECERRA, and Javier VERGARA. These affiliated networks supplied multi-kilogram quantities of controlled substances (primarily methamphetamine and heroin but also fentanyl) to dozens of subdistributors located throughout Southern California. These networks were also responsible for laundering tens of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds back to Sinaloa Cartel-associated drug traffickers in Mexico. During this investigation, agents coordinated seizures of narcotics and drug proceeds throughout San Diego County and across the United States.

To avoid detection by law enforcement, the defendants also utilized various encrypted communication services like Signal and WhatsApp to communicate among themselves. Despite their sophisticated efforts, law enforcement penetrated this network with a variety of investigative techniques, including physical surveillance, obtaining phone records, financial documents, tracking warrants on telephones and vehicles, and undercover agents. Over the course of the investigation, agents obtained dozens of search warrants and conducted a 10-month-long federal wiretap to track the communications and the location of the defendants. In conjunction with the wiretaps, agents ultimately seized approximately 175 pounds of methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl tied to these networks, approximately $50,000 in cash, multiple firearms, and a 2020 Cadillac Escalade (valued at over $115,000).

“Today we sent a message to drug traffickers in our community. If you sell drugs in San Diego, we will find you and prosecute you to the full extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “I want to congratulate the outstanding federal, state, and local law enforcement cooperation that has resulted in this highly successful investigation. This case represents yet another critical strike against the Sinaloa Cartel and its U.S.-based networks.”

“Today’s operation was about community care taking,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “We took criminals off the street in South County who were selling drugs and committing violent crimes - robberies - home invasions - identity theft - fraud - and other property crimes. The void left is an opportunity for the communities in South County to exhale and breathe in fresh air. Freedom is priceless. Today South County is free to live without a criminal undertone which eroded their daily quality of life.”

“A significant portion of the indictments unsealed today are alleged money laundering conspiracy violations and the asset forfeiture allegations,” stated Assistant Special Agent in Charge Johnathan Smith. “Multiple defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering violations, a charge which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20-years imprisonment. These are serious crimes that come with serious time.”

This case was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Narcotics Task Force (NTF) and the Internal Revenue Service. The NTF is a DEA-led task force comprised of federal and local law enforcement from the DEA, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSD), the San Diego Police Department (SDPD), United States Border Patrol (USBP), and the San Diego County Probation Office. Agents and officers from the United States Marshals Service, United States Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons also provided vital assistance for the investigation. Attorneys from the Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations, Electronic Surveillance Unit, likewise provided critical work as part of the investigative team.

This case is the result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

The United States is represented in court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew J. Sutton, and Mario J. Peia.

The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defendant Information

Defendants names and hometowns for Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3624-CAB

Defendant Number Name Hometown
1 Juan Carlos Ochoa El Cajon, CA
2 Belinda Maria Menke El Cajon, CA
3 Oscar Clemente-Perez El Cajon, CA
4 Anton Dockery El Cajon, CA
5 Amira Novelo-Torres Tijuana, MX
6 Guillermo Castellano El Cajon, CA
7 Monica Alcantar El Cajon, CA
8 Alberto Frayre Chula Vista, CA
9 Ivan Rodriguez El Cajon, CA
10 Brian Perin San Diego, CA
11 Edward DiBartola San Diego, CA
12 Juanita Ortiz El Cajon, CA
13 Lorena Torres El Cajon, CA
14 Marcus Dewayne Caldwell San Diego, CA
15 Candace Marie Spears San Diego, CA
16 Eduardo Lerma El Cajon, CA
17 Gene Fitzgerald San Diego, CA
18 Melissa Young San Diego, CA
19 Jessie Avina El Cajon, CA
Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

 

Defendants names and hometowns for Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3625-CAB

Defendant Number Name Hometown
1 Alfonso Arroyo San Diego, CA
2 James Anthony Tate San Diego, CA
3 Alice Chairez San Diego, CA
4 Zena Marie Gonzalez San Diego, CA
5 Steven Geiss San Diego, CA
6 Tommy Diego Duenas San Diego, CA
7 Josephina Hernandez San Diego, CA
8 Kajlid Jafar Wilks San Diego, CA
Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

 

Defendants names and hometowns for Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3626-CAB

Defendant Number Name Hometown
1 Samuel Becerra San Diego, CA
2 Gabrielle Logue San Diego, CA
3 Kelly Daniels San Diego, CA
4 Larry Meisner San Diego, CA
5 Walter Kuttner Spring Valley, CA
6 Kelly Jean Kelly San Diego, CA
7 Kurt Roiz San Diego, CA
8 Rodolfo Andrade Chula Vista, CA
9 Alfredo Gomez San Diego, CA
Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

 

Defendants names and hometowns for Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3627-CAB

Defendant Number Name Hometown
1 Douglas Bowen San Diego, CA
2 Erick Cifuentes San Diego, CA
3 John Bordwell Jr. San Diego, CA
4 Raya Jaye Kimball San Diego, CA
5 Stephen Robert Chavez San Diego, CA
6 Robert David Houser San Diego, CA
7 Justin Scott Baker San Diego, CA
8 Janette Lee Taylor San Diego, CA
9 Emilio Vanegas San Diego, CA
10 Christopher Nobis San Diego, CA
11 Maximino Padilla San Diego, CA
12 Erika Marlene Ramirez-Ramirez San Diego, CA
13 Heaven Rapp San Diego, CA
14 Shelley Marie Cobb San Diego, CA
15 Sarrah Jean Kent San Diego, CA
16 David Hopkins San Diego, CA
17 Matthew Bogan San Diego, CA
18 Emily Uscanga San Diego, CA
19 Michael Bowen Colorado Springs, CA
20 Edson Garcia San Diego, CA
21 Brandon Brooks San Diego, CA
22 Raheem Jackson San Diego, CA
23 Heather Kieley San Diego, CA
24 Yvette Romero San Diego, CA
25 Bobby Lee Crisp San Diego, CA
26 Dario Navarro San Diego, CA
Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1))

Importation of a Controlled Substance (21 U.S.C. §§ 952, 960 and 963)

Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

 

Defendants Names and Hometowns for Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3628-CAB

Defendant Number Name Hometown
1 Ramon Castillo San Diego, CA
2 Samuel Jones San Diego, CA
3 Julio Noriega San Diego, CA
4 Johanna Trujillo San Diego, CA
Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

 

Defendants Names and Hometowns for Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3629-CAB

Defendant Number Name Hometown
1 Rene Valdez Jr. San Diego, CA
2 Araceli S. Lomeli San Diego, CA
3 David Valdez San Diego, CA
4 Robert Tate Allen San Diego, CA
5 Sergio Eduardo Gutierrez Martinez Tijuana, MX
6 Milton Perez Cruz Tijuana, MX
Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

 

Defendants Names and Hometowns for Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3630-CAB

Defendant Number Name Hometown
1 Javier Vergara San Diego, CA
2 Raul Alonso Varela-Ruiz San Diego, CA
3 Michelangelo Becerra San Diego, CA
4 Candice Harrington San Diego, CA
5 Amanda Bitticks San Diego, CA
6 Eduardo Pardo San Diego, CASan Diego, CASan Diego, CA
7 Rose Velasquez San Diego, CA
Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

 

Defendants Names and Hometowns for Criminal Case No: 19-cr-3631-CAB

Defendant Number Name Hometown
1 Michael Wright San Diego, CA
2 Rhiannon Hiller San Diego, CA
3 Michael Branch San Diego, CA
4 Bryan Carlton San Diego, CA
5 Charles Moore San Diego, CA
6 Sara Syverson San Diego, CA
Summary of Charges

Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)

Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(2) and (h))

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life in prison, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release.

 

AGENCIES

Drug Enforcement Administration, Narcotics Task Force

Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

United States Marshals Service

United States Border Patrol

United States Secret Service

United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Federal Bureau of Prisons

San Diego Police Department

El Cajon Police Department

Chula Vista Police Department

San Diego County Probation Office

San Diego County District Attorney’s Office

Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces

Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado

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Los Angeles Field Division