Bad news, meth heads: The feds just took the good stuff off the streets of the San Gabriel Valley.
After 16 months on the trail, with a little help from the DEA and the ATF, a gigantic task force of investigators from the FBI, the Pasadena PD, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and the California state prison system just took down a massive Mexico-to-L.A. County drug ring, which they say was being masterminded by the Mexican Mafia and a drug cartel called "La Familial Michoacan."
Their stash, nicknamed "Crystal Light" by cops because dealers would allegedly skimp their customers by giving them a lighter load than was paid for, was incredibly pure, says the FBI:
The drugs were imported [from Mexico] in an unfinished or liquid state and were then converted for local distribution in a process known as or re-crystallization or "icing." Investigators believe the drugs were imported by airplane, boats and in vehicles crossing the border and the quality of the methamphetamine was, in most cases, 99 percent pure.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller tells LA Weekly that "on the street, a common level of purity is considered 75 percent. Ninety-nine percent is rare in that it's harder to obtain."
We haven't heard of meth chemistry that fine since Breaking Bad's Walter White quit his job as a science teacher and went to work in the basement of Pollos Hermanos. (Watch the show. It'll make real-life busts like these all the more spellbinding.)
At yesterday's press conference, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Nelson reportedly compared the international ring's smuggling tactics to the James Bond movie License to Kill, in which drug ingredients are mixed with other liquids before export, making them "much harder to detect."
The extreme purity of this particular crystal meth led investigators to believe that it was being "derived from a source in Mexico, rather than being cut up by a third or fourth party," says Eimiller. And an FBI special agent at the press conference estimated that the 27 gangsters in the indictment (listed below) were moving several pounds of meth, valued at around $9,000 per pound, every single day.
The San Bernardino County Sun described yesterday's pre-dawn raid:
Residents from all over the Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley early Thursday were awakened by sounds of flashbang grenades exploding and voices over loudspeakers telling alleged members of the Mexican Mafia to come out with their hands up.
Of the big 27 named (along with their hilarious street monikers) in the indictment, 16 were taken down yesterday; three were already behind bars; and eight more are still on the loose, including the group's alleged kingpin, 33-year-old Ontario resident Jose Juan Garcia Barron.
Here are the gangsters who cops say were working as meth runners for the mafia, some thought to be members of local street gangs Los Amables and Westside Pomona Malditos.
JOSE JUAN GARCIA BARRON, aka "Tokes"
MARTIN BARRON ALCAZAR, aka "Quiniki," aka "Quini"
JOSE CHAVEZ ESPINOSA, aka "Guerrin"
ENRIQUE CENTENO REYES, aka "Gordo," aka "Gordito"
JORGE LUIS BARRON ZARATE, aka "Qoi," aka "Coyote"
JOSE MARIA CHAVEZ JR., aka "Chema"
JOSE MARIA CHAVEZ, aka "Chemita"
DANIEL LUPIAN, aka "Yogi," aka "Nariz de Chupon"
INES CASTILLION JOYA
FNU LNU, aka "Borrachin," aka "Borrachillo"
JORGE RUELAS, aka "Fat Boy"
RUDY ZEPEDA, aka "Virolo" aka "Ojon"
RAFAEL FAVELA, aka "Chito"
OSCAR ROBLES, aka "Squeaks," aka "Squeaky"
MIGUEL SAUCEDO, aka "Blackie," aka "Blacks"
DANIEL YEPEZ, aka "Chamboogie"
MIGUEL ZARAGOZA, aka "Grumpy"
ISAAC CERVANTES, aka "Bill" aka "Wild Bill"
MARCOS OREJEL, aka "Piolin"
Update: A couple more interesting tidbits, if you're into this kind of thing: The Sun reports that a house in the 900 block of Nocta Street in Ontario (located not a block from Lincoln Elementary) was being used by the mafia/cartel as a meth re-crystalization and storage facility. "They would use various chemicals, acetone, turpentine, that re-crystalizes it into the white, crystal form, which is what the customers on the street want to buy," Nelson said at the conference. He added than an auto-body shop in Montclair was being used as a stop along the smuggle route.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Below, the indictment in full -- a stealth operation of undercover officers and tapped phone calls that would make Hank proud.