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12 arrests in SoCal tied to Mexican drug ring

April 1, 2010 12:37:01 AM PDT
A coalition of federal, state and local law enforcement authorities arrested 12 people in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire Thursday morning, in connection with a Mexico-based drug trafficking ring accused of smuggling 200 pounds of meth in Southern California each month.Dubbed the Don Chuy Drug Trafficking Organization, the narcotics ring allegedly arranged for the transportation of the drugs into the United States, primarily by using hidden compartments and fake car batteries in vehicles driven through international ports of entry. The group then allegedly distributed wholesale quantities of the drug through cells based in the Inland Empire, California's Central Valley and Washington.

During an eight-month investigation, law enforcement authorities seized approximately 90 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of well over $5 million. Authorities also seized eight kilograms of cocaine.

The Don Chuy Drug Trafficking Organization is named after the ring's alleged leader, Jesus Marquez-Marquez, who is known as "Don Chuy" and allegedly stored drugs in Tijuana stash houses before the drugs were moved across the international border. Marquez-Marquez, who is the lead defendant in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in United States District Court, is believed to be in the Mexican state of Michoacán.

Several of Don Chuy's top lieutenants, including David Jimenez-Pedroza, who allegedly oversaw domestic distribution of Don Chuy narcotics, were arrested Thursday, or were previously taken into custody.

Along with the Thursday arrests, authorities seized five pounds of the drugs at a house in San Bernardino that authorities believe was maintained by the organization.

The criminal complaint charges 31 defendants with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, a charge that carries a statutory maximum penalty of life without parole in federal prison.

"Today's operation is an example of the significant results that are achieved through the cooperation of local, state and federal law enforcement within the HIDTA task force," said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA Special Agent in Charge in Los Angeles.

Steven M. Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, stated: "The FBI has successfully worked with partners locally, federally and internationally to address the increases in southwest border violence, much of which is fueled by the importation of narcotics to Southern California for distribution around the United States."

Those arrested Thursday are expected to make initial court appearances in federal courts in the districts where they were arrested. Those arrested in the Los Angeles and Inland Empire regions will make their appearances in United States District Court in Los Angeles.