Law enforcement officers arrested 11 people Wednesday that prosecutors allege were part of a long-running drug trafficking ring that sold heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine across Los Angeles County.
The 20-count indictment charges 15 people with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and alleges a series of illegal activities over the past four years.
Wednesday’s arrests included two of the organization’s alleged ringleaders: Gabriel Ortega, a 42-year-old Lynwood resident known to the group as “Nightowl,” and Raul Sanchez, or “Rawlo,” 39, of Alhambra.
From his home in Lynwood and a storefront in Lincoln Heights, Ortega organized the movement of drugs and money, and also sold narcotics, according to court records. Others in the group would act as couriers of drugs and money, authorities said. Ortega twice sold about 440 grams of meth for $2,800 to a confidential source who was acting at the direction of law enforcement, according to the indictment.
On March 21, 2018, Sanchez allegedly coordinated the delivery of about 11 pounds of cocaine, 9 pounds of heroin and 15 pounds of meth to a storage facility in Alhambra. He also allegedly possessed three unregistered “ghost guns,” one .45-caliber Glock pistol and ammunition at the storage facility, according to prosecutors.
Frequently speaking over the phone in code, group members moved drugs and money across the county, including from locations in Agoura Hills, Alhambra, Monterey Park, El Monte, Paramount and Southgate, authorities said.
Through their investigation, law enforcement seized about eight kilograms of cocaine, five kilograms of heroin, 10 kilograms of meth, 10 firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and more than $200,000 in suspected drug proceeds, according to the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California.
When one of the group members, Stephen Patino, was arrested on Jan. 12, 2018 in San Diego, authorities said he had about $65,000 in drug money in the dashboard of the truck he was driving. Law enforcement seized the money. Patino later called Sanchez and told him, “They took everything,” according to court records.
In addition to the conspiracy charge, Ortega and Sanchez face charges of knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute controlled substances.
Sanchez, who previously was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court of four separate drug possession charges, also has been charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.
If convicted on all counts, the defendants would face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison and mandatory minimum sentences of at least 10 years in federal prison.