24 indicted in crackdown on Pasadena gang linked to drug cartel

Federal prosecutors unsealed indictments Thursday against two dozen members and associates of a Pasadena-based gang that worked with the Sinaloa cartel to sell methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin from Mexico, officials said.

Dubbed Operation Rosebud, the 18-month investigation targeted members of Varrio Pasadena Rifa, a multi-generational gang known to sell drugs in the city with operations in the Antelope Valley and Kern County, Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said in a news conference Thursday.


Sanchez said at least a dozen of the men targeted in three federal drug-dealing indictments were in custody after early morning raids Thursday. With the previous arrest or deportation of several others, five remained fugitives.

More than $2.5 million in narcotics was seized during the operation that involved substantial surveillance and eavesdropping on the gang’s coded conversations about its drug trade with associates of the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug and crime organization, officials said.

“We have a Sinaloa infusion into Southern California,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, whose detectives were part of a federal task force made up of Pasadena police, the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Timothy J. Delaney, special agent in charge of the FBI’s criminal division in Los Angeles, said the Sinaloa cartel is a primary supplier of drugs in Southern California.

“I do believe it is a growing presence,” he said.

In this case, the Mexico-based Sinaloa cartel had an associate working with the gang. The associate delivered drugs to Jose Salvador Villa, a 37-year-old leader of the gang in the San Gabriel Valley, according to one of the indictments handed down Dec. 3.

The suburban streets of Pasadena and its surrounding cities served as a backdrop for many drug transactions. More than 60 pounds of narcotics were delivered to various locations, including the top of a supermarket parking structure on Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard, an Altadena home and an Arcadia car wash, authorities allege.

The 24 people named in the three indictments face a variety of drug conspiracy charges that could have them facing more than a decade in federal prison.