15 Nuestra Familia Members & Associates Arrested

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that state, local, and federal agents arrested 36 persons believed to be members and associates of the Nuestra Familia organization on drug trafficking charges and served more than thirty-five search warrants.

Two federal indictments were unsealed Tuesday charging 15 individuals with one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, or to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine.

The first indictment, returned August 12, 2010, charged Martin Martinez, 32, of Los Banos, Philip Sparks, 33, of Hollister, and Armand Valle, 36, of Salinas, with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine in the Kings County, Fresno County, Kern County, and elsewhere.

The second indictment, returned August 26, 2010, charged the following individuals with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in the Counties of Kings, Fresno, Kern, Tulare, Monterey, Stanislaus, Merced, Sacramento, Madera, and elsewhere:

Felipe Ramirez, 30, of Visalia Daniel Nava, 27, of Visalia Jesse Juarez, 20, of Visalia Joe Dominguez, 31, of Visalia Felix Ruiz, 31, of Visalia Esteban Aroyo, 32, of Visalia Jonas Martinez, 36, of Visalia Fenton Torrez, 29, of Visalia Felipe Lango, 30, of Earlimart Arturo Bautista, 28, of Delano William Sanchez, 29, of Delano Xavier Medrano, 20, of Farmersville.

Ten of the federal defendants were arrested this morning, four remain fugitives, and one was already in custody. Federal and state agents seized 12 guns, approximately $15,000, two indoor marijuana grows, methamphetamine, and cocaine in the course of the operation this morning.

The arrests this morning were part of a multi-jurisdiction coordinated law enforcement operation. Participating agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, the Visalia Police Department, the Salinas Police Department, the Watsonville Police Department, and the Delano Police Department.

The federal indictments unsealed today are related to a pending case in which 24 other Nuestra Familia members or associates are charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine in Kings, Fresno and Kern Counties. That case was unsealed on June 8, 2010, in connection with a similar operation centered on Kings County. The indictments unsealed today bring to 39 the number of defendants charged in U.S. District Court with serious drug trafficking offenses as part of the coordinated investigations.

Agents also arrested 26 individuals on State Ramey warrants. An additional 18 defendants have been charged by the Kings County District Attorney in connection with the arrests announced on June 8.

This case is the product of an extensive, joint investigation by the agencies referenced above. Other agencies who have participated in the related Kings County operation in June and other aspects of the related investigations include the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Kings County Narcotic Task Force, the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Hanford Police Department, Lemoore Police Department, Corcoran Police Department, and the California Highway Patrol. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Marshals Service provided assistance. Assistant United States Attorneys Kimberly Sanchez and Kathleen Servatius are prosecuting the federal cases unsealed today and the previously indicted case.

U.S. Attorney Wagner said, “The operation undertaken this morning represents another major blow against a major drug trafficking network that operates throughout California. Together with our state and local law enforcement partners, we will continue to relentlessly pursue and dismantle violent criminal gangs.”

The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of this drug trafficking offense is life in prison and a $4 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The arrests and search warrants were conducted as part of a joint investigation of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.

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