“Yaqui” for Borderland Beat
Madera County, California takes down large drug trafficking ring based out of tiny community:
The year-long, multi-agency investigation led to the seizure of 14 firearms and more than $400,000 worth of drugs.
The Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team announced on Monday the takedown of a large drug trafficking operation that was based in tiny La Vina, a farming community of less than 300 in the southwest part of the county.
Operation Crystal Vine was launched in July of 2020 by the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team.
The ring was led by Juan Jimenez along with his wife, Maria Hidalgo, and son Alexis “Nessy” Jimenez, who are three of 38 individuals arrested in the case.
|Juan Jimenez , the ring leader, second from left -second row|
The operations resulted in the seizure of 18 pounds of methamphetamine, more than 60 grams of cocaine, 3.7 pounds of heroin, nearly 25 pounds of marijuana, 64 grams of concentrated cannabis and 3,400 fentanyl pills.
“They actually were burying large quantities of drugs, which made it extremely difficult to conduct this investigation,” Pogue said. “They went to great lengths to make sure that they were not discovered.”
“We basically decimated one gang,” says Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno. “Arrested most of the members of that particular gang and then some of the dealers that we arrested are receiving drugs directly from larger cartel dealers.”
There also were 14 firearms recovered through an investigation that started in July 2020 and was dubbed Operation Crystal Vine, the largest gang and narcotics investigation conducted by the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team in more than a decade.
“Detectives learned that Juan Jimenez was procuring narcotics from Mexico and distributing them throughout the state of California,” Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue said.
“Alexis is a documented gang member with a violent history that includes assault with a firearm. Our investigation uncovered that this family used various gang members to distribute the guns and drugs throughout the county of Madera and the state of California. Throughout the investigation, electronic intercepts were implemented to help determine when the drugs were being transported. Nearly a dozen traffic stops were orchestrated during this operation yielding the seizure of sizable amounts of various drugs.”
The arrests in the case have produced a number of felony and misdemeanor charges including conspiracy, distribution of controlled substances, firearms offenses and assaults.
Bail on those cases range from $100,000 to $5 million.
Juan Jimenez, 47; Hidalgo, 48; and Alexis Jimenez, 24; all have been arrested on the following felony charges:
Three counts each of conspiracy
- One count of transportation/sales of methamphetamine, with an enhancement for 20+ kilograms and an additional gang enhancement.
- One count of transportation/sales of heroin with an enhancement for 1+ kilogram and an additional gang enhancement.
- One count of transportation/sales of cocaine, with a gang enhancement.
Juan Jimenez is also charged with additional felony counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and committing a felony while released on bail.
“I just want to remind everybody how serious the charges in this case are,” Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno said. “These are serious allegations that these 38 and more individuals are dealing drugs and acting as violent gang members in our community.
“As the cases come over to our office, you can be assured that we will do everything in our power to serve justice and to make sure we keep Madera County as safe as we possibly can.”
Moreno says while the arrests are good news for many impacted California cities, the impact will be deeply felt most deeply in La Vina.
“The vast majority of individuals came out of that community, so that community that was dealing with that surge of drug dealing, gangs, guns and violence will hopefully get respite from these arrests,” she said.
Gang members who were arrested as a result of the operation will face additional gang enhancement charges. More arrests are expected to come.
The Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team includes detectives from the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, Madera Police Department, Chowchilla Police Department, Madera County Probation, Madera County District Attorney’s Office and the California Highway Patrol. They were assisted by officers from the California Department of Justice and the High Impact Investigation team.
The investigation was started after an increase of criminal activity in La Vina, Pogue said, and it found Jimenez was acquiring methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine from Mexico and various sources, and distributing the drugs throughout various locations in the state.
“Fairly far north all the way down to the border,” Pogue said.
Starting on April 5, the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team served 12 search warrants in Fresno and Madera counties including one at the Jimenez residence in the area of Avenue 11 and Road 23 in La Vina, where a number of coolers were found. Detectives believe the coolers were used to hide guns and drugs that had been buried on the property, the group, Pogue said, went to great lengths to conceal their activity.
“This is a tremendous day for public safety in Madera County,” the Madera County sheriff said. “The substantial seizure of drugs and firearms will no doubt make a significant positive impact on the safety of our communities. We’re thankful for the collaboration between our allied agencies to successfully navigate and continue this investigation.”
Operation Crystal Vine Overview ; Arrests: 38
- Petra Teresa Anaya, 32, Chowchilla
- Ralissa Janelle Huizar, 28, Madera
- Ramon Loza Chavez, 36 Madera
- John Anthony Chavarria, 33, Madera
- Jose Manuel Sanchez, 39, Madera
- Jose Manzano, 40, Madera
- Rodrigo Delfonso Martinez, 29, Madera
- Alejandro Gomez Frias, 26, Fresno
- Oscar Tista-Herrera, 27, Madera
- Oscar Arredondo, 39, Sanger
- Francisco Camarillo, 29, Madera
- Juan Jimenez, 47, Madera
- Simon Garcia, 62, Madera
- Eulises Romero Soto, 29, Madera
- Aaron Matthew Campos, 40, Paso
- Robles Rafael Nunez, 26, Le Grand
- Oscar Aguayo, 30, Madera
- Michael Jimenez, 32, Chowchilla
- Issa Lidia Silva, 21, San Bernadino
- Higinio Montes, 24, Calexico
- Bartolo Salinas, 46, Madera
- Paula Ramirez, 35, Fresno
- Suzanne Marie Barajas, 34, Madera
- Ruben Frias, 57, Fresno
- Alexis Jimenez, 24, Madera
- Maria Hidalgo, 48, Madera
- Mario Hernandez Ortega, 54, Madera
Drugs Seized + Approximate Street Value:
Methamphetamine: 8,165.5 grams (18.002 lbs); $244,965
Cocaine: 60.1 grams; $3,606
Heroin: 1676.9 grams (3.7 lbs); $134,152
Marijuana: 11,261.0 grams (24.8 lbs); $20,000
Concentrated Cannabis: 64 grams; $1,600
Fentanyl Pills: 3,400 pills; $17,000
Total Estimated Value: $421,323
Asset Forfeiture: $64,874
|Just Last October 2020 13 people were charged by the Feds in a Meth, Heroin and Fentanyl trafficking ring operated in Fresno, California:|
Three Fresno men and 10 others are accused in a drug-trafficking operation that spread into several states, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Friday.
The federal grand jury returned two indictments Thursday against the Fresno men — Jesus Gonzalez-Burgos, 36, Gabriel Gomez-Nunez, 36, and Jose Rubalcalva Gutierrez Jr., 34 — charging them with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl.
Also charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl: Juan Alejandro Comparan-Guzman, 34, of Kerman; Quintin Jeuh Carlos-Bañuelos, 25, of Palo Alto; Hector Gomez, 27, of Omaha, Neb.; Francisco Ramírez, 20, of Fresno; Lorena Ramírez, 36, of Fresno; Christina Maria Nino, 57, of Fresno; Anna Concepcion Jimenez-Ambriz, 21, of Fresno; Rafael Zaragoza, 28, of Fresno; Carol Maldonaldo Vasquez, 32, of Corcoran; and Rita Ann-Marie Louis, 29, of Carnation, Wash.
Authorities said they spent nine months investigating the Fresno drug-trafficking ring that allegedly spread into Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Nebraska.
Court documents revealed the defendants were trafficking methamphetamine, fentanyl-laced counterfeit OxyContin pills and heroin into those states.
Authorities seized approximately 34,144 pills of counterfeit OxyContin pills containing fentanyl, 7 pounds of cocaine, 2 pounds of heroin, 137 pounds of methamphetamine and $142,000 during the investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
If convicted, the suspects face a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years and up to life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million.
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