RIVERSIDE, California – Federal authorities this morning concluded a 2½-year wiretap investigation into a drug trafficking organization based in the Coachella Valley by arresting eight defendants linked to the distribution of wholesale quantities of methamphetamine.
The eight people arrested today by special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration are among 16 defendants named in two indictments returned by a federal grand jury on June 14. In addition to today's arrests, three defendants already were in custody, and five defendants are fugitives, with three of those believed to be in Mexico.
The investigation – which was dubbed Operation “Narco Navigator” – targeted a significant methamphetamine distribution network overseen by a Coachella man that was responsible for sending narcotics to local sellers, as well as to customers in other states. During the course of this investigation, the DEA and its law enforcement partners seized over 50 pounds of methamphetamine and four firearms.
The main indictment charges 15 defendants, 11 of whom were arrested today or were already in custody. The charged defendants are:
- Raul Lopez-Valenzuela, 42, of Coachella, an illegal alien and the alleged leader of the drug trafficking organization;
- Balbino Valenzuela-Verdugo, also known as “Manuel,” 42, of Coachella, an illegal alien who is currently a fugitive and who allegedly was the primary distributor for the drug ring;
- Antonio Zamora, also known as “Foca,” 30, of Coachella, who currently is a fugitive and allegedly was a supplier of narcotics for the drug organization – including approximately 16 pounds of methamphetamine seized in 2015 and 2016;
- Jesus Garcia, also known as “Chuy,” 37, of Coachella, who allegedly was another supplier of narcotics to the Lopez-Valenzuela organization;
- Ernesto Alonzo Flores, also known as “Negro,” 36, of Coachella, another person who allegedly supplied narcotics to the drug ring – including approximately 24 pounds of methamphetamine seized from Valenzuela-Verdugo in 2016;
- Jesus Ramirez Granados, also known as “Chuy2,” 35, of Coachella, an illegal alien who allegedly distributed narcotics on behalf of the Lopez-Valenzuela drug trafficking organization;
- Daniel Kenneth Dalpezzo, 48, of Yucca Valley, who allegedly was a significant customer of the drug ring, purchasing large quantities of methamphetamine for further distribution;
- Charmaine Raygina Florio, 53, of Cathedral City, who is Dalpezzo's former wife and allegedly purchased methamphetamine from the drug ring along with Dalpezzo;
- Tracy Cross, 45, of Palm Desert, who was already in custody;
- Alejandro Jose Rojas, 36, of Palm Springs, who was already in custody;
- Anthony Osteen, 38, of La Mesa, who allegedly worked with Rojas to coordinate obtaining narcotics;
- Roland Roe, 46, of Palm Springs, who was already in custody and who allegedly arranged for the supply of narcotics for at least one other defendant;
- Warren Barry, 54, of La Quinta, currently a fugitive, who allegedly was a courier for Lopez-Valenzuela, who was carrying a load of more than 10 pounds of methamphetamine that was seized by law enforcement authorities in late 2015 in Nebraska;
- Jason Sills, 37, of Palm Springs, an alleged distributor of narcotics in the Coachella Valley; and
- Ruben Arredondo-Diaz, 53, of Lexington, Nebraska, who is currently a fugitive and who allegedly arranged the distribution of drugs in Nebraska.
All 15 defendants named in this indictment are accused of participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. If they were to be convicted, each defendant would face a potential sentence of life in federal prison.
Those arrested today are expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside (with the exception of Osteen, who is expected to appear tomorrow in federal court in San Diego).
The second indictment unsealed today charges Sills and Salvador Lemus Ramos, also known as “Eddie,” 39, of Palm Springs, who is also a fugitive, with distributing methamphetamine. The indictment describes a transaction in late 2015 in Cathedral City involving two pounds of methamphetamine where the buyer was an undercover DEA agent.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The investigation in this matter was conducted by the DEA, which received assistance from the United States Border Patrol; the Palm Springs Police Department; the Palm Springs Fire Department; the Coachella Valley Narcotics Task Force; the Riverside County Sheriff's Department; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshal's Service; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the California Highway Patrol; the Riverside County District Attorney's Gang Impact Team; and the Nebraska State Patrol.
The two indictments are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Puneet V. Kakkar of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Component(s): USAO – California, Central
Contact: Thom Mrozek Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer United States Attorney's Office Central District of California (Los Angeles) 213-894-6947
Press Release Number: 18-119 Updated July 25, 2018
Central District of California DOJ / 18-119 / July 25, 2018