12 Charged in Drug-Smuggling Scheme
Two federal grand jury indictments that were unsealed Monday charge 12 men--six of them from Chula Vista and one from Bonita--with taking part in a scheme to smuggle cocaine into the United States from Bolivia.
Eight of those charged were arrested Saturday, while four remained at large Monday, according to Assistant U. S. Atty. Pat Swan.
The arrests culminated an investigation by the U. S. Customs Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the U. S. Marshals Service and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
In the first indictment, seven men were charged with four counts of conspiring to import cocaine, Swan said in a press release. Those charges stemmed from the seizure in November of 1,070 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $90 million, from a truck near Salton City in Imperial County.
According to Swan, the load of cocaine was flown in from Bolivia with stops in Colombia and Mexico, where, he said, the defendants had arranged for police protection for the illegal cargo.
Named in the indictment are Alfonso Ramirez-Ramos, 65, and Raul Ramirez, 22, both of Chula Vista; Alejandro Sigueiros-Lopez, 60, of Lancaster, and Roberto Beltran-Felix, 58, of Bonita. Armando Moran-Reyes, 28; Isaac Fernando Gonzalez, 28, and Manuel Herrera-Leon, 42, are also named; their residences were not known.
The driver of the truck, Armando Martinez Cortez, had been arrested and charged earlier, Swan said.
Ramirez-Ramos and Ramirez were also charged in the second indictment, along with five others, with two additional counts of conspiring to illegally import cocaine.
According to the release, the second indictment stemmed from a plan by the seven men to buy a plane for $270,000 in cash and to smuggle more than 21,000 pounds of cocaine on 12 separate trips. Those plans were postponed after one of their cocaine suppliers suffered unknown injuries, Swan said.
Named in the second indictment are Francisco Quintana-Retamoza, 47, Raul Jesus Quintana-Retamoza, 54, Rigoberto Navarro-Beltran, 31, and Oscar Ramirez, 31, all of Chula Vista; and “John Doe,” also known as “Roberto,” age unknown, of Guadalajara, Mexico.
The four still at large Monday were Beltran-Felix, Quintana-Retamoza, John Doe and Oscar Ramirez.
The rest were arrested Saturday when federal agents exercised search warrants and seized more than $1.3 million in assets, Swan said.
Maximum penalties for the charges are life imprisonment and a $4-million fine per person, Swan said.