Officials charge 17 in drug trafficking case linked to Mexican Mafia

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Law enforcement authorities said Wednesday that 17 reputed gang members were charged in connection with a narcotics trafficking operation that sold drugs from Mexico on the streets of Ventura County.

Methamphetamine and heroin were supplied by an organization in Mexico that was directed by a member of the Mexican Mafia, a California prison gang that exerts control over a number of Latino street gangs, according to authorities.

Six of the suspects were taken into custody Wednesday by a multi-agency task force, the FBI said. Eight others were being held on unrelated charges but were being transferred to the custody of federal authorities.


The remaining three suspects were believed to be in Mexico. They were identified as alleged Mexican Mafia member Martin Madrigal-Cazares, 38, who oversaw the operation, and Lina Fuentes, 35, and Librado Navarrete, 27, according to the FBI.

The year-long investigation relied in part on surveillance operations and a confidential informant, according to an affidavit that was part of the federal criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday.

The informant conducted “controlled buys” of methamphetamine from some of the gang members under the direction of task force members, the affidavit says.

The informant also “paid taxes” from drug sales to gang members who oversaw the money on behalf of the Mexican Mafia in Ventura County, according to the affidavit.

Founded in the California prison system in the mid-1950s, the Mexican Mafia for years has ordered gang members across Southern California to collect taxes from drug dealers operating in areas controlled by street gangs, according to authorities and court records.

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