United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement officers today arrested eight people, including a couple and their son in Northeast Los Angeles, on drug-trafficking and human smuggling charges. The arrestees had close ties to the Drew Street Clique of the Avenues gang. A ninth suspect, Rosario Rodriguez Ortiz, remains at large.
The raid came just three weeks after some 1,300 federal and local law enforcement officers arrested dozens of Avenues gangsters in pre-dawn raids on September 22. The arrests were based on a 222-page indictment that claimed that Avenues gangsters were responsible for a host of crimes that included the slaying of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Juan Escalante near his parent's Cypress Park home last year.
The recent arrests came early this morning as ICE agents served search warrants in the Imperial Valley and at a home at 2862 West Avenue 34 in Northeast Los Angeles, which the feds believe was the local base for the smuggling ring and where they housed the illegal aliens until they were transported to their final destinations.
A couple, Teodoro Alvarez-Estrada and his wife Aquilina Alvarez, and their son, Eduardo, are believed to be the masterminds behind the operation. The feds believe the family smuggled 200 people a year across the border from Mexico. At their house on Avenue 34 agents found a semi-automatic handgun and a .357 Magnum revolver.
According to a federal search warrant affidavit, the smugglers allegedly had plans to sneak Maria "Chata" Leon, the matriarch of a drug dealing family of gangsters who ruled Drew Street, into the U.S. after she had been previously deported.
It didn't work out, but the notorious Leon returned later to Los Angeles to attend her gangster son Danny Leon's funeral in February of 2008. She was arrested again about a month later by federal officers. Leon is currently serving a eight-year sentence for selling crack cocaine and racketeering charges.
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The smuggling ring charged anywhere from $2,500 to $4,500 to smuggle Mexicans into the United States from Mexicali. In one instance, Alvarez told an undercover agent that she charged $2,800 for aliens who are willing to jump the fence and be picked up by car in the United States; $3,500 for aliens who need a guide to walk them through the Port of Entry with a falsified green card or visa; and $4,300 for aliens who want to be driven through the Port of Entry.
The fees went down slightly depending on whether the alien was in good shape. The fee was cheaper, $2,800, if the alien was able to run six or eight minutes to a waiting truck. The fee went up $1,000 dollars if the alien was only able to run for 30 seconds.
The ring also charged double their usual fee to five Chinese immigrants who wanted to be smuggled in a truck across the border.
Today's indictment stemmed from intelligence federal agents received when they were investigating Maria Leon and the Drew Street Clique of the Avenues last year.