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Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Sixty Defendants Charged in Nationwide Takedown of Sinaloa Cartel Methamphetamine Network
By News Release @ 9:58 PM :: 1454 Views :: Drugs

Sixty Defendants Charged in Nationwide Takedown of Sinaloa Cartel Methamphetamine Network

News Release from US DoJ, Southern California, June 29, 2021

Click HERE for the indictment
Click
HERE for the search warrant

SAN DIEGO – An indictment was unsealed today in federal court charging 60 members of a San Diego-based international methamphetamine distribution network tied to the Sinaloa Cartel with drug trafficking, money laundering and firearms offenses.

During the last month, hundreds of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents and officers have arrested dozens of defendants and searched multiple locations throughout San Diego County and in five states. As of today, 44 of the 60 defendants are either in federal or state custody, and the search continues for 16 defendants. In addition to these arrests, law enforcement has seized more than 220 pounds of methamphetamine and other illegal drugs; 90 firearms; and more than $250,000 in cash. Law enforcement officials are also seeking the forfeit of residences, high-end vehicles, and bulk cash belonging to these defendants.

According to the indictment and other publicly filed documents, over the last several years, this complex San Diego-based network obtained thousands of kilograms of methamphetamine from the Sinaloa Cartel to smuggle across the international border concealed in hidden compartments in passenger cars and motorcycles. The defendants then used these cars and motorcycles, along with trains, commercial airlines, the U.S. Mail, and commercial delivery services like FedEx and UPS to distribute that methamphetamine to dozens of sub-distributors located throughout San Diego County, the United States, and the world, including Hawaii, Arizona, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Kentucky, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

In return, tens of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds were returned to the network’s leaders via shipments of bulk cash, structured cash deposits into bank accounts, and money transfer systems like MoneyGram, Western Union, PayPal, Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App. And to protect their illegal operations, the defendants allegedly possessed dozens of firearms and used encrypted communication providers to communicate with each other. This drug trafficking and money laundering continued unabated throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Despite their sophisticated efforts, law enforcement successfully penetrated this network with a variety of investigative techniques, including physical surveillance, obtaining phone records and financial documents, undercover agents, search warrants, as well as a six-month federal wiretap to intercept the communications and track the locations of the defendants.

Today we have dealt a serious blow to this San Diego-based international drug trafficking network with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “The intersection of drug dealing and gun possession inevitably leads to violence in our communities. By dismantling this network, the Department of Justice reaffirms its unwavering commitment to reducing violent crime and building a San Diego where all our citizens are safe.”

“DEA is enhancing its efforts to disrupt, dismantle and destroy the most violent drug trafficking organizations across the country under Operation Crystal Shield,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge John W. Callery. “By dismantling this sophisticated drug trafficking network, DEA and our law enforcement partners have prevented significant quantities of methamphetamine and numerous firearms from making their way to the streets of San Diego and other neighborhoods throughout the United States.  Drug trafficking is a violent crime, that impacts the safety and security of our communities – and the drug and firearm seizures made in this investigation are testament to that.”

“The primary motivation of drug traffickers is greed,” said Ryan L. Korner, Special Agent in Charge for IRS-Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office.  “IRS-CI will continue to work tirelessly alongside our partner agencies to stop the flow of narcotics and narcotics proceeds that are killing innocent Americans, and to ensure that crime doesn’t pay—that those individuals, like the 60 defendants indicted and arrested in this case, are brought to justice.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to preserving the integrity of the mail by ridding the mail of involvement in drug trafficking,” said US Postal Inspection Service Acting Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the Los Angeles Division. “This operation clearly shows that by combining our strengths and resources with all the involved agencies which include, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies we can disrupt their drug trafficking organizations to protect our communities.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Grossman also praised federal, state, and local law enforcement for the coordinated team effort in the culmination of this investigation. This case was led by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Narcotics Task Force (NTF), the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, and the United States Postal Inspection 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, the San Diego Police Department, the Escondido Police Department, the United States Border Patrol, and the San Diego County Probation Office. Agents and officers from the United States Marshals Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & 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 prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew J. Sutton, Nicole Bredariol, and Amy B. Wang of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Paralegal Specialists Kathleen Jordano and Leticia Adams.

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.

DEFENDANTS       Case Number 21cr1559-H                           
  1. (D1) Reyes Espinoza       Age: 35                                   San Ysidro, CA
  2. (D2) David Villegas         Age: 49                                   San Diego, CA
  3. (D3) John Bomenka        Age: 54                                   San Diego, CA
  4. (D4) Dennis Jones          Age: 49                                   San Diego, CA
  5. (D5) Darren Mosier        Age: 59                                   San Diego, CA
  6. (D6) Frank Tucker          Age: 63                                   San Diego, CA
  7. (D7) Charles Miller         Age: 52                                   San Diego, CA
  8. *(D8) Carlos Espinoza    Age: 28                                   Tijuana, MX
  9. (D9) Mario Espinoza       Age: 20                                   Tijuana, MX
  10. (D10) Jaron Hillyer         Age: 30                                   San Diego, CA
  11. (D11) Kristina Brown      Age: 32                                   San Diego, CA
  12. (D12) Danny Miller         Age: 52                                   San Diego, CA
  13. (D13) Shawn Morrill       Age: 49                                   San Diego, CA
  14. *(D14) Hilleal Grant       Age: 51                                   San Diego, CA
  15. *(D15) Lewis Rich          Age: 59                                   San Diego, CA
  16. (D16) Cameron Graff      Age: 29                                   San Diego, CA
  17. *(D17) Terry Haith         Age: 60                                   San Diego, CA
  18. (D18) Tansy Steinhauer  Age: 51                                   San Diego, CA
  19. *(D19) Jessica Pomeroy  Age: 30                                   San Diego, CA
  20. *(D20) Shadow Segura   Age: 23                                   Houston, TX
  21. (D21) Jasmine Lucas      Age: 50                                   San Diego, CA
  22. (D22) Philip Abbas          Age: 42                                   San Diego, CA
  23. *(D23) Peter Fuller         Age: 63                                   San Diego, CA
  24. (D24) Eduardo Osuna     Age: 41                                   San Diego, CA
  25. (D25) Frank Carrillo        Age: 45                                   San Diego, CA
  26. (D26) Stephen Myrick     Age: 45                                   San Diego, CA
  27. (D27) Gloria Sandoval     Age: 40                                   San Diego, CA
  28. *(D28) Ashley Hilton       Age: 42                                   Houston, TX
  29. (D29) Joseph Occhiogrosso  Age: 44                               Brooklyn, NY
  30. (D30) Gary Beasley          Age: 39                                   San Diego, CA
  31. *(D31) Arnulfo Rodriguez   Age: 38                                   San Diego, CA
  32. (D32) Alexandro Larios-Flores  Age: 24                                   San Diego, CA
  33. *(D33) Jose Vargas          Age: 31                                   San Diego, CA
  34. (D34) Michael Nagle         Age: 50                                   San Diego, CA
  35. *(D35) Raymond Sterling   Age: 51                                   San Diego, CA
  36. (D36) Terry Tyler              Age: 49                                   San Diego, CA
  37. (D37) Victor Yamasaki      Age: 59                                   San Diego, CA
  38. (D38) Chris Paschke         Age: 57                                   San Diego, CA
  39. (D39) Charles Gerardi      Age: 57                                   Houston, TX
  40. (D40) Christian Lopez-Villegas  Age: 34                            San Ysidro, CA
  41. (D41) David Santa Maria   Age: 49                                   San Diego, CA
  42. (D42) Melvin Johnson       Age: 44                                   San Diego, CA
  43. (D43) Daniel Babuata       Age: 34                                   San Diego, CA
  44. *(D44) Garrett Steele       Age: 40                                   San Diego, CA
  45. (D45) Vien Trinh               Age: 62                                   San Diego, CA
  46. *(D46) Troy Prater            Age: 46                                   San Diego, CA
  47. *(D47) Sharon Landhan    Age: 44                                   San Diego, CA
  48. (D48) Gabriel Askay          Age: 44                                   San Diego, CA
  49. (D49) Patrick Lane            Age: 57                                   San Diego, CA
  50. (D50) Kevin Tobin             Age: 65                                   San Diego, CA
  51. (D51) James Ellerbe          Age: 68                                   San Diego, CA
  52. (D52) Hope Stoneking       Age: 35                                   San Diego, CA
  53. (D53) Tasha Almanza        Age: 42                                   San Diego, CA
  54. *(D54) Jason Ferguson     Age: 48                                   San Diego, CA
  55. (D55) Kelle Ferguson         Age: 52                                   San Diego, CA
  56. *(D56) Roger Desroche     Age: 74                                   San Diego, CA
  57. (D57) Steven Brandt        Age: 57                                   San Diego, CA
  58. (D58) Esteban Gastelum-Sanchez      Age: 42                  San Diego, CA
  59. (D59) Tara Scroggins        Age: 45                                   San Diego, CA
  60. (D60) Debbie Hill             Age: 59                                   San Diego, CA

*Fugitives

SUMMARY OF CHARGES
  • Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846)
  • Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1) and (h))
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C., § 841(a)(1))
  • Importation of Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. §§ 952 and 960)
  • Felon in Possession of a Firearm (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)

Maximum Penalties: For the drug charges, term of custody including a mandatory minimum 10 years and up to life imprisonment, $10 million fine and a lifetime of supervised release. For money laundering charges, term of custody up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved, and three years of supervised release. For the firearms charges, term of custody up to 10 years imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine.

AGENCIES
  • Drug Enforcement Administration, Narcotics Task Force
  • Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation
  • United States Postal Inspection Service
  • San Diego County Sheriff’s Department
  • San Diego Police Department
  • Escondido Police Department
  • United States Border Patrol
  • San Diego County Probation Office
  • United States Marshals Service
  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • San Diego County District Attorney’s Office
  • Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces
  • Department of Justice, Office of Enforcement Operations, Electronic Surveillance Unit
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan

March 8, 2021: DEA: Jalisco Cartel takes Hawaii from Sinaloa Cartel

June 8, 2021: FBI-controlled Anom app ensnares scores of alleged criminals in global police sting

SA June 29, 2021: 60 charged in California-based meth network that sold drugs in Hawaii

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