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.
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.
were smuggled from Mexico to stash houses in Southern California, where they
were distributed to lower-level dealers in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Authorities say the proceeds from drug sales are sent back to the cartel in
were served throughout the year, resulting in the seizure of 161 pounds of
methamphetamine, 121 pounds of cocaine, 13 pounds of Mexican heroin, more than
6 pounds of fentanyl and 600 fentanyl pills that were branded to look like
oxycodone. The drugs were displayed on tables during Tuesday’s news conference.
seizure dismantles and disrupts these organizations,” Pentis said. “I hope
there’s a significant disruption because of this.”
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.
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.
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.
enforcement’s crack down on illegal drug trafficking to a “constant
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.”
Ventura County rose 42% from 2016 to 2017, in part because of the rise of
fentanyl use, the undersheriff said.
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.