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13 people with ties to Sinaloa cartel arrested, millions of dollars in drugs seized in Ventura County

Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat-thank you Neal in Nevada- from LAT video KTLA

Thirteen suspected
members of a notorious Mexican drug cartel are behind bars, and more than $10
million worth of illicit drugs have been seized as part of a months-long
investigation in Ventura County, authorities announced Tuesday.

The arrests, which
authorities say include high-ranking Sinaloa drug cartel members, were made as
part of a multi-agency investigation that began last year, Ventura County
Undersheriff Gary Pentis said.

Omar Rangel, 29, of the
San Fernando Valley, was the local leader of the ring, according to a statement
from the Sheriff’s Department.

“This type of economic
seizure dismantles and disrupts these organizations,” Pentis said. “I hope
there’s a significant disruption because of this.”
The Ventura County
Sheriff’s Department released a list of 14 additional people who are either
under arrest or whose “arrests are imminent” in connection with the ring.
They are: Bryan Vega,
20, of Reseda; Nancy Romero, 33, of Canoga Park; Cesar Alvarez Serrano, 30, of
Winnetka; Alma Ceja, 47, of Downey; Richard Kevin Riley, 48, of Hollywood;
Rhonda Harvey, 47, of Van Nuys; William Kragthorpe, 54, of Sherman Oaks; Xavier
Lozano, 27, of Imperial Beach; Jose Florentino Soto, 40, and Joseph Rigoberto
Soto, 21, of Los Angeles; Jorge Antonio Jimenez, 43, of Sylmar; Alondra
Banuelos, 23, of Sylmar; Melissa Arnold, 45, of Oxnard; and Joshua Grimes, 34,
of Simi Valley.
One of the first drugs
seized as part of the investigation was fentanyl, a potent opioid that’s 50
times stronger than heroin. The white powder is increasingly being mixed into
other drugs to produce a stronger high, authorities said.
Pentis likened law
enforcement’s crack down on illegal drug trafficking to a “constant
cat-and-mouse game.”
“This is just one of
the groups,” Pentis said. “It’s a huge problem, but the problem we’re centering
on is the deaths and destruction caused from fentanyl. Why fentanyl? It’s cheap
and it improves potency. It’s about dollars and nothing else.”
Overdose deaths in
Ventura County rose 42% from 2016 to 2017, in part because of the rise of
fentanyl use, the undersheriff said.
Data show overdose
deaths also are rising statewide. Fentanyl deaths in California tripled between
2016 and 2017, according to state health department data.

Authorities said they
intend to make additional arrests as part of the investigation.

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