A dozen suspected members of a methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking ring were arrested by federal officials Wednesday and Thursday, federal authorities confirmed.
The bust was part of a yearlong investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Major Mexican Trafficker’s Strike Force dubbed “Operation Crystal Haven.”
The focus was a long-term drug distribution ring that was importing meth and cocaine from cartels based in Tijuana and Guadalajara, Mexico, into San Diego County. The drugs were then distributed in areas of northern San Diego.
A criminal complaint was unsealed Wednesday charging 19 defendants allegedly involved in this drug ring with conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine and cocaine. Including a previous arrest, 13 of those defendants have been arrested and charged as of Thursday.
All but two defendants appeared in court Thursday afternoon for arraignment on drug conspiracy charges.
Federal officials say the suspected drug ring members hail from Vista, San Marcos, Spring Valley, Oceanside and Panorama City, Calif. They range in ages from 22 to 68 years old.
The suspects arrested include: Jose Isidro Rodriguez-Lara, 42; David Aguilar, 37; Alma Jaime, 38; Manuel Marcial, 31; Felipe Garcia-Gallegos, 27; Guadalupe Natalie Perez, 22; Jose Luis Lopez, 67; Rosalia Lourdes Nieves, 30; Alicia Reyna Marin, 49; Leonardo Garcia-Gaytan, 26; Nancy Blancas-Pena, 26; Sylvia Sanchez-Zarate, 47; Miguel Gutierrez-Marantes, 26.
Fugitives connected to this drug ring that remain at large include Sylvia Lara, 29; Julio Cesar Rodriguez-Zarate, 38; Jose Juan Mancilla-Monje, 46; Edson Solis-Valdovinos, 25; Nathan Kahakulani Yasso, 68; Hernan Sebastian Bernal, 26.
The fugitives are all from Vista, according to investigators.
If convicted, each suspect involved in “Operation Crystal Haven” faces a minimum of 10 years to life in custody and a maximum fine of $4 million.
The agencies working on this case and task force include the DEA, FBI, IRS, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The multi-agency effort is mainly focusing on Mexico-based drug trafficking organizations with ties to San Diego.
“We are relentlessly pursuing major trafficking organizations that operate in our neighborhoods and imperil our children,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said Thursday. “It’s gratifying to wrap up a lengthy investigation like this one with many arrests and drug seizures, knowing the community is safer because of our efforts.”
San Diego DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge William Sherman said this investigation marks the end of this particular local, large-scale drug ring.
“This organization was distributing multi-pound quantities of methamphetamine in our cities, and making a huge profit. Throughout the course of the investigation, DEA and its law enforcement partners seized large quantities of methamphetamine and arrested 13 people who will not be selling their product on our streets,” said Sherman.