LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Authorities on Wednesday arrested 16 defendants allegedly linked to an Inland Empire-based drug trafficking ring that used the U.S. Postal Service and private vehicles to ship large quantities of cocaine and other narcotics to buyers across the country.
A 17-count indictment, filed in Los Angeles federal court, charges two dozen defendants with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Some of the defendants are also charged with distribution of controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, and being felons in possession of ammunition.
Between October 2016 and May 2018, members of the conspiracy mailed large quantities of narcotics from post offices throughout Riverside and San Bernardino counties to recipients nationwide — including New York, Ohio, Michigan, and South Carolina — in exchange for large cash payments, often in excess of $100,000, according to the indictment.
Ricardo Alejandro “Chuco” Bazan, 41, of Riverside, was allegedly the ringleader of the operation. The indictment alleges that illicit drug proceeds were sent back to California and were ultimately delivered to Bazan.
Co-defendants Doroteo Mendoza “Guerro” Torrez, 57, of Eastvale, and Edulfo Leyva “Gallo” Perez, 54, of San Jacinto, allegedly arranged for narcotics to be shipped from Mexico and Colombia to Southern California.
Bazan then provided drugs to Noel “Big Show” Granados, 40, of Moreno Valley, who arranged for the drugs to be shipped to co-conspirators in other states via U.S. mail and private trucks, according to the indictment.
Granados allegedly handled the ring’s day-to-day operations, including the logistics of mailing drug parcels, sending drugs via trucks, and receiving drug proceeds sent back to California.
Over the course of the three-year investigation, authorities across the United States seized a total of about 170 pounds of cocaine, 20 pounds of heroin, 150 pounds of methamphetamine, 989 fentanyl pills, 19 firearms, and more than $1.89 million in suspected drug proceeds, according to federal prosecutors.
If convicted of all counts, the defendants would each face between 10 years and life in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Thirteen of the defendants were expected to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in federal court in downtown Los Angeles. An additional three defendants were arrested in Ohio and South Carolina.