If you thought the Southern California economy was still wobbly following the Great Recession, rejoice. People are actually exporting goods from L.A. to the rest of the world, including Europe.
The U.S. Attorney's Office today announced that nine enterprising suspects, including a pair of brothers and their uncle, have been indicted for allegedly sending cocaine to Italy. They were busted as part of a case prosecutors are calling “Operation Family Guy”:
We call it “Operation Powdered Biscotti”!
Anyway, the feds allege that these suspects not only ran coke to Italy but distributed meth throughout the United States. Sounds like business was good.
Three of the suspects were arrested this morning, feds said.
The seven-count indictment says the ring used female couriers and vehicles with hidden compartments to transport the drugs. Feds say it then wired drug-proceed cash from the Dominican Republic to its bases in Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga via Western Union.
Authorities say they seized 40 kilograms of coke as part of the bust. It came via the Dominican Republic and Mexico and was headed to Italy, they alleged.
Wiretaps, surveillance of text messages and undercover agents helped bring the bust to fruition, resulting in the indictment delivered last week, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Here's the roster of alleged bad guys, according to prosecutors (the Urenas are brothers, Vazquez is their uncle):
Milton Urena, 29, of the Dominican Republic, who is currently being sought by authorities;
Rafael Urena, 27, of Rancho Cucamonga, Milton Urena's brother, who was arrested this morning;
Daniel Alejandro Agredano Vazquez, 22, of the Dominican Republic, who allegedly oversaw the distribution of cocaine from the Dominican Republic to Italy and conspired to launder drug proceeds, and who is currently being sought by authorities;
Francisco Javier Vargas-Oseguera, 51, an uncle of the Urena brothers, previously of Seattle and recently of Fontana, who is currently in federal custody in Seattle after being charged in federal court there in relation to his alleged possession of eight pounds of methamphetamine in a case unrelated to Operation Family Guy;
Leonel Urena-Partida, 49, of Guadalajara, Mexico, another uncle of the Urena brothers, who allegedly conspired to transport cocaine to Italy, and who is being sought by authorities;
Carmen Garcia, 35, of San Bernardino, who supplied methamphetamine and assisted with the recruitment of drug couriers, and who was arrested this morning;
Eliseo Carrillo Duarte, 45, of Montebello, who is currently in federal custody in Indianapolis after being arrested there in March on unrelated drug-trafficking charges stemming from the seizure of approximately 10 pounds of methamphetamine;
Jenna Michelle Martin (also known as Jenna Michelle Smith), 25, of Upland, an alleged drug courier who was arrested this morning; and
Beth Rene Ford (also known as Beth Rene Florance), 26, formerly of Ontario and now living in the Denver area, a second alleged drug courier, who is expected to surrender soon to authorities.
The U.S. Attorney's statement also broke down the allegations:
The indictment specifically charges eight defendants (not Duarte) with conspiracy to distribute cocaine to Italy, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Six of the defendants (not Agredano Vasquez, Martin or Ford) are charged in another conspiracy involving the domestic distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine, a charge that also carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
Various defendants are also named in a charge that alleges the distribution of approximately one pound of methamphetamine, three counts of use of a communication facility in committing a felony drug offense, and conspiracy to launder money.
The arrestees were expected to be arraigned today in downtown L.A. federal court.
And you thought L.A. only imported fine leather goods from Italy? It's a two-way street. At least until last week.