Six Fallbrook residents were named in a major arrest sweep January 25 that involved a total of 119 individuals allegedly connected in racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking, and firearm offenses throughout San Diego County with ties to the Mexican Mafia.
Lt. Theresa Adams-Hydar of the North County Gang Task Force said four Fallbrook residents were arrested that day, another was already serving prison time, and one is still being sought.
In Fallbrook, those arrested were Cynthia Varela, 52, in the 1000 block of Hillcrest Lane; Sarah Quintana, 29, in the 300 block of North Pico; Francisco Gutierrez, 29, in the 400 block of N. Main, and Cesar Flores, 20, in the 700 block of W. Fallbrook St., Pablo Franco, 32, was already in prison. Gustavo Barron, 22, remains a fugitive at large.
“The defendants in custody were arraigned in court Jan. 26 on federal indictments and the U.S. Attorney is asking that bail be denied on all,” said Hydar.
When asked how strong the Fallbrook connection was in this operation, Hydar said, “This case had very significant connections to Fallbrook, and the drug trafficking going on was benefiting the Mexican Mafia.”
Hydar explained that in this case heroin and methamphetamine were the two most prominent drugs being distributed, along with marijuana.
“These people were selling drugs or playing a role in the process and paying a ‘tax’ to the Mexican Mafia; they do that to make sure they don’t get any repercussions from them,” said Hydar.
The Mexican Mafia, also known as “La Eme” is involved with the Varrio Fallbrook Locos, the Varrio San Marcos, and the Diablos and West Side gangs in Escondido.
Hydar said these gangs were paying a man named Rudy Espudo, 39, of San Marcos, who is allegedly a high-ranking member of the Mexican Mafia who oversees their activities throughout much of North County.
Hydar said the Mexican Mafia is a prison gang, not a street gang.
“They become indoctrinated in the prisons – when they come out, they become puppeteers,” said Hydar.
Hydar went on to explain that some of those arrested were “facilitators.”
“Facilitators are people who help out with the paying, the transferring of money, and with communication between those in prison and those on the street,” said Hydar. The two Fallbrook women arrested in the sweep were categorized as “facilitators” by Hydar.
Others arrested were “soldiers,” she said.
“The soldiers are gang members that are involved in violent acts – typically robbery, kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, intimidation of witnesses, and drug trafficking,” said Hydar.
Multiple law enforcement agencies participated in the large bust, all with the same goal – addressing problems with gangs, drugs, and violence. The coordinated effort involved three different law enforcement operations: , “Operation Notorious County,” “Operation Carnalismo,” and “Operation 12-Step.”
“This coordination provides better intelligence about street gangs and violent crime within our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy. “And better intelligence means better law enforcement and prosecutions.”
Of the January 25 arrests, FBI Special Agent in Charge Keith Slotter said, “[These] arrests mark one of the largest single takedowns in San Diego FBI history. The FBI and our law enforcement partners stand unified in our efforts to protect this county from the violence, drug trafficking and extortion schemes employed by the Mexican Mafia and its affiliates. San Diego is inherently safer today because of the cooperation between our agencies working together to disrupt and dismantle the criminal activities of these dangerous individuals.”
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore and his staff deal with the ramifications of these illegal activities on a daily basis and he expressed his satisfaction with the results of this particular sweep.
“Gangs were made to pay ‘taxes’ in order to facilitate their trafficking and violent behavior. We answered with a one-two punch: a strong and experienced multi-agency investigation, armed with the RICO statute. The results speak for themselves.”
According to Duffy, these cases are being investigated by the FBI, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals Service; San Diego County District Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Bureau of Prisons; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the San Diego County Probation Department; Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations; and Customs and Border Protection-United States Border Patrol in addition to numerous city police departments throughout the county.
The cases are being prosecuted in San Diego federal court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter Mazza, Jaime Parks, Fred Sheppard and Tara McGrath.
(previous story, Jan. 25, 2012)
Gang sweep operation and arrests result in indictments for top Mexican Mafia leaders, gang members, including some in Fallbrook
SAN DIEGO COUNTY (Wire Service) – Federal indictments and complaints were unsealed today, Jan. 25, charging 117 street gang members and associates of the Mexican Mafia in San Diego County — including two Mexican Mafia leaders — with racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking and firearm offenses.
Officers from state, local and federal agencies fanned out across San Diego County this morning, taking 104 defendants into custody.
The sweep — involving three separate investigations — is believed to be one of the largest ever in San Diego.
“I cannot remember an operation of this magnitude,”‘ said Sheriff Bill Gore. “San Diego County is a lot safer this morning than it was yesterday.”
Charges resulted from “Operation Notorious County,” an 18-month investigation led by the North County Regional Gang Task Force; “Operation Carnalismo,” led by a group of federal, state and local law enforcement agents, including some from the FBI; and “Operation 12-Step,” led by the East County Regional Gang Task Force.
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said ridding communities of gang violence was one of her main goals when she took office.
She said charges outlined in the racketeering conspiracy involved “a lot of violent acts,” including attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
In one instance, a drug dealer was stabbed and shot when two defendants confronted him about being “shorted” in a methamphetamine transaction, Duffy said.
She said today’s takedown “attacks every level of the Mexican Mafia,” with two of the organization’s top three leaders in San Diego now in custody.
“We landed a blow against the leadership of the Mexican Mafia,” Duffy told reporters.
Alleged Mexican Mafia leaders Rudy Espudo and Salvadore Colabella were charged in separate indictments.
“The cases unsealed today make communities stronger and safer,” Duffy said.
More than 14 pounds of methamphetamine, weapons and at least $150,000 in cash were seized during today’s raids, Duffy said.
To those who think involvement in gang activity in San Diego isn’t a big deal, “they need to think twice,” Duffy said.
She said her office is “fiercely committed” to making communities safer by ridding them of illegal gang activity.
Village News note: Law enforcement has confirmed that some arrests took place in Fallbrook relating to this case. More information will be posted as soon as that information is released.