Federal agents and San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday carried out pre-dawn raids on eight homes and made 12 arrests in relation to a suspected methamphetamine and heroin trafficking operation centered around one Nipomo family.
The FBI then held a news conference Tuesday at its regional office in Santa Maria to announce the arrests of the dozen south San Luis Obispo County residents named in a federal grand jury indictment Friday.
During the searches, agents seized more than 65 rifles, shotguns and handguns, a currently undetermined amount of drugs and about $165,000 in cash. Searches lasted throughout the day in several locations, and as of Tuesday evening, evidence was still being collected from several homes, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said.
The joint effort, dubbed “Operation: All In The Family,” was carried out by the FBI, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices, the CHP, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Pismo Beach, Guadalupe, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo and Grover Beach police departments.
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The indictment targeted the Rocha family, which is suspected of operating in and around Santa Maria and distributing very high-quality methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, said Terry Wade, the FBI special agent in charge of criminal operations at the agency’s Los Angeles office.
Wade said the investigation began in 2013 but would not offer details on how it was initiated.
Friday’s grand jury indictment includes 74 “overt acts” that allegedly occurred between the winter of 2013 and the end of 2014, including numerous drug transactions, drug negotiations using coded language and controlled buys between alleged dealers and two confidential informants working with investigators.
The indictment alleges that Jose Alfredo Rocha, his wife, Irene, and sons Tony and Jose Jr. bought and stored drugs for distribution to street-level drug dealers.
The detailed indictment describes dozens of recorded transactions carried out with members of the family beginning in December 2013, when informants began buying methamphetamine from Irene Rocha.
Over several months, the informants increased the amount of drugs requested from Rocha and eventually began buying cocaine and heroin, the indictment reads.
Cipolla said investigators believe the operation had links to Mexican drug cartels, although he declined to elaborate.
“Because of the purity of the narcotics seized today and throughout this investigation, that leads us to believe that this (criminal organization) does indeed have ties to drug cartels,” Cipolla said.
The indictment alleges that Anna Rosa Rocha, another member of the family, falsified statements on loan applications to purchase vehicles, at least one of which was used in the suspected trafficking operation.
Jose Rocha Jr. and Tony Rocha are also charged with distributing methamphetamine near a school.
“Anytime we can identify a major distributor of methamphetamine and heroin and remove them from the streets, that obviously makes a community safer,” Wade said.
The 12 people arrested Tuesday face federal charges that include conspiracy, distributing controlled substances and distributing controlled substances near a school.
The following people were arrested:
- Jose Alfredo Rocha Sr., 52, of Nipomo.
- Irene Rocha, 49, of Nipomo.
- Jose Alfredo Rocha Jr., 24, of Nipomo.
- Tony Perfecto Rocha, 23, of Nipomo.
- Anna Rosa Rocha, 28, of Nipomo.
- Maria Ynez Flores, 19, of Nipomo.
- Kyle Joseph Edelen, 31, of Nipomo.
- Frank Eugene Martinez, 26, of Nipomo.
- Chase Ross Twomey, 26, of Nipomo.
- Peter Bernard Salinas, 55, of Oceano.
- Emil Brieg IV, 19, of Oceano.
- Jim Elkins, 59, of Grover Beach.
One additional suspect, Victor “Speedy” Gonzales, 36, of Nipomo remained at large Tuesday evening, Cipolla said.
All of those who were arrested are expected to make initial appearances in federal court today in Los Angeles.