Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Feds Bust Mexican Cartel That Smuggled Drugs to Valley in Veggie Boxes, Gas Tanks
gvw_david_taub
By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 4 weeks ago on
June 17, 2024

The U.S. Attorney's Office announced a huge bust, with many of the drugs smuggled into the Central Valley in veggie boxes, Monday, June 17, 2024. (U.S. Attorney's Office)

Share

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Veggie boxes. Motorcycle seats. Gas tanks.

These are some of the methods a cartel used to smuggle drugs across the Mexican border and into the Central Valley. The local U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that agents busted a drug ring, seizing 12,900 pounds of methamphetamine, 50 pounds of fentanyl mixture, 39 pounds of cocaine, and 22 pounds of heroin.

A multi-agency investigation led by the FBI arrested 22 suspects, mostly from southern California, in “Operation Toxic Waste.” Drugs would be transported in legitimate-looking moving trucks, said the U.S. Attorney for the Fresno area Phillip A. Talbert. Several of the suspects would stash drugs at their homes, before redistributing them in areas such as Fresno and Merced counties.

U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert discusses Operation Toxic Waste, leading to 22 suspects being charged. (GV Wire/David Taub)

U.S. Attorney: Meth Problem Getting Worse

“The methamphetamine trafficking problem has gotten worse and worse. The volume of methamphetamine trafficking here is way up. The purity of the methamphetamine that is being trafficked is way up. And the price of that methamphetamine is way, way down,” Talbert said at a Monday afternoon news conference at the Fresno federal courthouse.

The drug ring — which Talbert did not identify but said could be related to the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels — also used portable projectors and batteries.

“It also snuck hundreds of pounds of liquid methamphetamine across the border in the gas tanks of cars. As law enforcement has been seen, drug trafficking organizations increasingly have been smuggling methamphetamine across the border in liquid form because it’s harder to detect as a liquid,” Talbert said.

The liquid is then converted back to crystal form at “secret conversion labs,” Talbert said.

Not all drugs can be detected at border stops, Talbert said.

The defendants face mostly conspiracy charges. Others are charged with possession and distribution charges.

Agents also seized 35 firearms. More than 200 agents worked at least 18 months on the drug bust.

The Indictments

According to court documents, the following were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fresno and subsequently arrested based on the allegations below:

  • Adolfo Montiel, 45, of Lancaster, was charged in the drug-trafficking conspiracy as well as with distribution of methamphetamine and fentanyl. Between January and March 2023, Montiel used his residence as a “stash house” to store, package, and distribute the organization’s drugs to dealers throughout California and other states. He also illegally possessed and sold firearms.
  • Jose Nunez, 42, of Lancaster, was charged in the drug-trafficking conspiracy. Between April 2023 and May 2024, Nunez used residences in Los Angeles County to store, package, and distribute large quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl. He also operated a methamphetamine laboratory in Los Angeles County.
  • Jesus Perez Garcia Jr., 24, of Los Angeles, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He was responsible for coordinating the receipt of drugs that the organization smuggled across the border and stored, packaged, and distributed the drugs to resellers.
  • Andres Silva-Corona Perez, 42, of San Bernardino, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He operated a “stash house” with more than 500 pounds of methamphetamine for the drug-trafficking ring.
  • Ruben Saenz, 36, of Los Angeles, is charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He transported over 4,700 pounds of methamphetamine that had been smuggled across the border in a semi-truck.
  • Elvis David Vasquez, 32, of Northridge, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He operated a methamphetamine stash house for the organization where he stored and repackaged over 170 pounds of methamphetamine.
  • Sergio Pena, 30, of Hacienda Heights, was charged with conspiring to traffic methamphetamine and fentanyl and distribution of methamphetamine. Pena stored and distributed methamphetamine, fentanyl, and firearms.
  • Mirella Castillo, 41, of Lancaster, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
  • Kiara Sinaii Valdivia, 29, of Pittsburg, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
  • Calvin Guntetong, 26, of North Hollywood, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
  • Jacklyn Saenz, 33, of Los Angeles, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
  • Luz Maria Cobrera Salazar, 41, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
  • Jose Galan Lopez, 22, of Chula Vista, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
  • Allen Khamtrashyan, 26, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
  • Emily Vela, 23, of North Hills, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Quiq Labs Ongoing Camps Transform Summer Learning for Fresno Unified Students

DON'T MISS

Donors to Pro-Biden Super PAC Are Said to Withhold Roughly $90 Million

DON'T MISS

Fact-Checking Biden’s News Conference at the NATO Summit

DON'T MISS

Fresno Dems Make Endorsements Early. Why?

DON'T MISS

End of the Roar: Porsche Bids Farewell to the 718 Internal Combustion Engine

DON'T MISS

Does Joe Biden Realize How Angry These Michigan Voters Are?

DON'T MISS

Vacaville Police Officer Killed While Making a Traffic Stop

DON'T MISS

Sean Burroughs, Former Little League Star and MLB Player, Died of Fentanyl Overdose

DON'T MISS

Merced’s Former Bitwise Building Gets a New Tenant. Who’s Taking It Over?

DON'T MISS

Separating Fact From Fiction About California Homelessness

UP NEXT

Donors to Pro-Biden Super PAC Are Said to Withhold Roughly $90 Million

UP NEXT

Fact-Checking Biden’s News Conference at the NATO Summit

UP NEXT

Fresno Dems Make Endorsements Early. Why?

UP NEXT

End of the Roar: Porsche Bids Farewell to the 718 Internal Combustion Engine

UP NEXT

Does Joe Biden Realize How Angry These Michigan Voters Are?

UP NEXT

Vacaville Police Officer Killed While Making a Traffic Stop

UP NEXT

Sean Burroughs, Former Little League Star and MLB Player, Died of Fentanyl Overdose

UP NEXT

Merced’s Former Bitwise Building Gets a New Tenant. Who’s Taking It Over?

UP NEXT

Separating Fact From Fiction About California Homelessness

UP NEXT

LL Cool J Relearned ‘How to Rap’ on His First Album in 11 Years, ‘the FORCE.’ Here’s How

David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

Fresno Dems Make Endorsements Early. Why?

2 hours ago

End of the Roar: Porsche Bids Farewell to the 718 Internal Combustion Engine

3 hours ago

Does Joe Biden Realize How Angry These Michigan Voters Are?

3 hours ago

Vacaville Police Officer Killed While Making a Traffic Stop

4 hours ago

Sean Burroughs, Former Little League Star and MLB Player, Died of Fentanyl Overdose

4 hours ago

Merced’s Former Bitwise Building Gets a New Tenant. Who’s Taking It Over?

5 hours ago

Separating Fact From Fiction About California Homelessness

5 hours ago

LL Cool J Relearned ‘How to Rap’ on His First Album in 11 Years, ‘the FORCE.’ Here’s How

5 hours ago

UC Merced Begins NCAA Division II Sports Competition in 2025-26 Season

5 hours ago

Bill Belichick Joining ‘Inside the NFL’ for Upcoming Season

5 hours ago

Quiq Labs Ongoing Camps Transform Summer Learning for Fresno Unified Students

In an era when my most advanced tech class involved mastering typing on those colorful backed Apple computers, I am stoked for today’s Fresn...

19 mins ago

19 mins ago

Quiq Labs Ongoing Camps Transform Summer Learning for Fresno Unified Students

57 mins ago

Donors to Pro-Biden Super PAC Are Said to Withhold Roughly $90 Million

2 hours ago

Fact-Checking Biden’s News Conference at the NATO Summit

2 hours ago

Fresno Dems Make Endorsements Early. Why?

3 hours ago

End of the Roar: Porsche Bids Farewell to the 718 Internal Combustion Engine

3 hours ago

Does Joe Biden Realize How Angry These Michigan Voters Are?

4 hours ago

Vacaville Police Officer Killed While Making a Traffic Stop

4 hours ago

Sean Burroughs, Former Little League Star and MLB Player, Died of Fentanyl Overdose

Search

Send this to a friend