Alleged members of a Coachella Valley meth ring were taken into custody Wednesday as part of a long-term federal investigation into drug sales and distribution both locally and in other states.
Operation “Narco Navigator” resulted in eight arrests and charges against 16 defendants total, resulting from two indictments returned by a federal grand jury last month. In addition to the arrests, three defendants were already in custody, while five remain at large, according to officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, who said Wednesday’s operation was the conclusion of a 30-month wiretap investigation into the organization.
Fifty pounds of methamphetamine and four firearms were also seized by members of the Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies, who raided locations throughout the Coachella Valley on Wednesday.
Among the defendants charged in the indictments are:
— Raul Lopez-Valenzuela, 42, of Coachella, the alleged leader of the drug trafficking organization;
— Balbino Valenzuela-Verdugo, aka “Manuel,” 42, of Coachella, the alleged primary distributor for the drug ring, who remains at large;
— Antonio Zamora, aka “Foca,” 30, of Coachella, a supplier who remains at large and is allegedly connected with at least 16 pounds of methamphetamine seized in 2015 and 2016;
— Jesus Garcia, aka “Chuy,” 37, of Coachella, another alleged supplier;
— Ernesto Alonzo Flores, aka “Negro,” 36, of Coachella, another alleged supplier who authorities say provided the organization with at least 24 pounds of methamphetamine, which was seized in 2016;
— Jesus Ramirez Granados, aka “Chuy2,” 35, of Coachella, who allegedly distributed narcotics on the organization’s behalf;
— Daniel Kenneth Dalpezzo, 48, of Yucca Valley, an alleged “significant customer of the drug ring, purchasing large quantities of methamphetamine for further distribution”;
— Charmaine Raygina Florio, 53, of Cathedral City, Dalpezzo’s ex-wife who allegedly purchased meth along with Dalpezzo;
— Tracy Cross, 45, of Palm Desert, who was already in custody;
— Alejandro Jose Rojas, 36, of Palm Springs, who was already in custody;
— Anthony Osteen, 38, of La Mesa, who allegedly worked with Rojas to coordinate obtaining narcotics;
— Roland Roe, 46, of Palm Springs, who was already in custody and allegedly arranged for supplying to narcotics to at least one other defendant;
— Warren Barry, 54, of La Quinta, an alleged courier for the organization who remains at large;
— Jason Sills, 37, of Palm Springs, an alleged distributor of narcotics in the Coachella Valley;
— Ruben Arrendondo-Diaz, 53, of Lexington, Nebraska, an alleged distributor who remains at large.
Each defendant faces a potential life sentence in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Those in custody were expected to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Riverside, with the exception of Osteen, who is expected in a San Diego federal courtroom on Thursday.