A law enforcement raid stretching from San Diego to Paso Robles and as far north as San Jose led to 16 arrests Wednesday of suspects charged with distributing and manufacturing methamphetamine.
According to the FBI, many of the defendants’ narcotics transactions took place at public parks or near schools.
Among those charged are members of street gangs known as Paso Trece (Paso 13), Mexican Pride, Underground Pride and Wicked-Minded Sureños.
During Wednesday’s operation, the task force seized money and drugs with a street value of approximately $100,000. Officers found a loaded weapon at one location.
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The defendants have been charged in a criminal complaint and a series of indictments returned by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The announcement was made in Paso Robles by Bill Lewis of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office and Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.
The multiagency task force involved in the yearlong investigation included the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office and other local agencies.
According to the FBI, the case began in 2011 when task force members, investigating gang-related criminal activity, discovered the involvement of the gang members, who, according to court documents, “participated in the drug trafficking organization in various capacities.”
Some of the defendants, according to the documents, supplied the narcotics, while others identified buyers or sold drugs.
The indictments allege that methamphetamine was sold for amounts ranging from $800 to $1,000 an ounce. The defendants allegedly used coded language to negotiate the transactions.
Three of the defendants charged in the case were arrested Sept. 18, and two sought that day are considered fugitives.
Of the 16 arrested Wednesday, one is considered a fugitive. In total, the investigation resulted in charges against 22 defendants.
In addition, several other individuals were arrested and will be charged with state violations.
In its investigation, the task force used confidential informants and other investigative techniques, the FBI said.
Federal defendants arrested Sept. 18 were Miguel Torres, 26, and Samuel Cerna, 34, both of Paso Robles, and Jesus Telesforo Rodriguez, 23. Two federal defendants from the September arrests are considered fugitives: Jesus Alejandro Alcaraz-Martinez, 24, of Atascadero, and Edgar Paul Alvarez-Rendon, 24, of Paso Robles.
Those taken into custody Wednesday were Daniel Montes, 37, Paso Robles; Edwin Rodriguez, 29, San Diego; Delores Prieto, 54, Paso Robles; Edward David Merino, 50, Paso Robles; Leanne Ferravanti, 52, Paso Robles; Anna Aldaco, 34, Paso Robles; Amelia Rosales, 34, Paso Robles; and Miguel Hernandez, 32, Paso Robles.
Other arrests were Emiterio Guerrero, 28, Paso Robles; Gabriel Rendon, 38, Paso Robles; Gary Davis, 45, Paso Robles; Leobardo Aburto, 34, Paso Robles; Brandon Fletcher, 28, Paso Robles; Angelica Aguilar, 36, of Paso Robles; and Juan Becerra, 37, Paso Robles.
Melanie Wilson, 39, of Paso Robles is considered a fugitive and is being sought by the task force. One defendant is not being identified “due to operational reasons.”
Defendants arrested will appear in federal District Court. They will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
If convicted, defendants face statutory maximum penalties ranging from 40 years to life in federal prison.