FBI charges 22 in Paso Robles gang drug bust
An investigation that led to federal charges against 22 defendants for their roles in a drug trafficking organization that operated throughout San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties, culminated yesterday with arrests by a multi-agency task force and law enforcement partners, announced Bill Lewis, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, and Andrė Birotte Jr, the United States Attorney for the Central District of California.
The announcement was made on behalf of the FBI’s Central Coast Safe Streets Task Force, which is comprised of FBI Agents and Task Force Officers with the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department; the California Highway Patrol; the Santa Maria Police Department; and the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department. Throughout this investigation and during the operation, the Task Force also received assistance from multiple law enforcement partners in San Luis Obispo County. 16 defendants were taken into custody this morning during the coordinated service of warrants in Paso Robles, San Jose and San Diego.
The defendants are charged in a criminal complaint and a series of indictments returned by a federal grand jury in United States District Court in Los Angeles. The court documents charge the defendants with the distribution, manufacture, and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. This case was initiated in 2011 when Task Force members were investigating allegations of gang-related criminal activity and, in the course of that investigation, identified numerous alleged members of a drug trafficking organization affiliated with area street gangs, including “Paso 13,” (also known as “Paso Robles 13” or “Paso Trece”), “Mexican Pride,” “Underground Pride,” and “Wicked Minded Surenos.”
According to court documents, the defendants participated in the drug trafficking organization in various capacities. Some of the defendants are identified in court documents as suppliers of the narcotics, while others allegedly identified potential buyers or brokered the delivery of the narcotics. The indictments allege that the methamphetamine was sold for amounts ranging from approximately $800 to $1,000 per ounce and that the defendants used coded language to negotiate the transactions.
The investigation revealed that many of the narcotics transactions among defendants and customers took place at public parks or near schools. During this investigation, the task force utilized various investigative techniques, to include confidential informants and sources, in order to conduct undercover operations throughout San Luis Obispo County and gather evidence on narcotics dealers and traffickers. Three of the federal defendants charged in this case were arrested on September 18 during the initial phase of this operation and two are considered fugitives. During the operation, 16 federal defendants were arrested and one federal defendant is considered a fugitive. In total, the investigation resulted in charges against 22 federal defendants.
Additionally, several individuals were arrested and will be charged with state violations in connection with this investigation. Searches conducted following the arrests on September 18 resulted in the seizure of weapons and approximately $80,000 in street value methamphetamine and cocaine. During the operation, the task force seized a variety of money, drugs with a street value of approximately $100,000. A loaded weapon was also found at one of the locations.
The federal defendants arrested on Septermber 18 are: Miguel Torres, 26, of Paso Robles Samuel Cerna, 34, of Paso Robles Jesus Telesforo Rodriguez, 23 Two federal defendants who were not located on September 18 are considered fugitives and are currently being sought by the Task Force: Jesus Alejandro Alcaraz-Martinez, 24 of Atascadero Edgar Paul Alvarez-Rendon, 24, Paso Robles.
The following individuals were taken into custody yesterday by members of the Task Force at various locations, primarily in Paso Robles: Daniel Montes, 37, of Paso Robles Edwin Rodriguez, 29, of San Diego Delores Prieto, 54, of Paso Robles Edward David Merino, 50 of Paso Robles Leanne Ferravanti, 52 of Paso Robles Anna Aldaco, 34, of Paso Robles Amelia Rosales, 34, of Paso Robles Miguel Hernandez, 32, of Paso Robles Emiterio Guerrero, 28, of Paso Robles Gabriel Rendon, 38, of Paso Robles Gary Davis, 45, of Paso Robles Leobardo Aburto, 34, of Paso Robles Brandon Fletcher, 28, of Paso Robles Angelica Aguilar, 36, of Paso Robles Juan Becerra, 37, of Paso Robles Melanie Wilson, 39, of Paso Robles is considered a fugitive and is being sought by the Task Force.
One of the federal defendants is not being identified at this time due to operational reasons. The defendants arrested were expected to have an appearance in United States District Court in Los Angeles today. One of the federal defendants, Rodriguez, will have an appearance in U.S. District Court in San Diego. If convicted of the charges, the defendants face statutory maximum penalties ranging from forty years to life in federal prison.
This case is the result of a joint investigation by the FBI’s California Coast Safe Streets Task Force with participating members from the following agencies: The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department; the California Highway Patrol; the Santa Maria Police Department; the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI. The San Luis Obispo County Department of Probation provided considerable assistance during this investigation. In addition to task force member agencies, the following agencies also provided assistance during the course of the investigation and during the arrest operations: The Paso Robles Police Department; the Atascadero Police Department; the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department; the San Luis Obispo County Probation Department; the
San Luis Obispo Police Department and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. The FBI’s San Francisco and San Diego Field Offices also provided assistance during the operation by executing an arrest warrant in their respective districts. The defendants will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California.