United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced that a federal grand jury has returned an indictment in Sacramento against more than 25 people, charging them with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy, two counts of distribution of methamphetamine, one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
A related indictment was returned on June 7 by a federal grand jury sitting in Fresno charging seven people from Bakersfield and Fontana in Southern California with one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana, seven counts of distribution of methamphetamine, two counts of distribution of cocaine, one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
The two indictments are the product of an intensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Stockton Violent Crime Task Force, the San Joaquin County Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force (METRO), the Stockton Police Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Bakersfield into the activities of two separate drug trafficking organizations which aligned together to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy.
The FBI investigation dubbed "Operation Valley Star" focused on the Mario Diaz Drug Trafficking Organization (Diaz DTO), which was responsible for distributing large amounts of illegal narcotics, including methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy throughout the Eastern and Northern Districts of California, with supply lines from Mexico and distribution channels reaching to other United States cities, including Warren, Ohio, and Atlanta, Georgia. The Diaz DTO operates under the umbrella of the Nuestra Familia (NF), a violent Hispanic prison gang based within the California prison system whose members exert control over street-level Norteño gang members engaged in drug trafficking and violent crime. Diaz, who was among those charged in Northern California, operated an urban clothing store in Los Banos, California, called Geez Clothing.
The DEA investigation dubbed "Operation Dictator" focused on the activities of Fidel Ramon Castro, a convicted drug trafficker, who also operated an urban clothing store called Geez Clothing in Bakersfield. According to the court record, Castro and his associates obtained cocaine smuggled into Southern California from Mexico and then sold it to drug trafficking organizations, including the Diaz DTO. In addition, it is alleged that Castro was also involved in the distribution of methamphetamine, marijuana, and ecstasy.
The DEA was assisted in its investigation by agents and officers of the Riverside DEA, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Bakersfield Police Department, Kern County Sheriff's Department, Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), and Rialto Police Department.
According to U.S. Attorney Scott, as a result of the collaborative law enforcement effort, agents arrested a total of 39 individuals and executed 28 federal search warrants in the Central Valley, San Francisco, and Monterey Bay Areas, and Southern California. FBI seizures from Operation Valley Star included 148 pounds of methamphetamine, 17 kilograms of cocaine, 60 marijuana plants in an indoor grow operation discovered in Stockton, 13 firearms, approximately $81,000 in cash, a 2006 Chrysler 300M with an estimated value of $19,000, and a 2006 745 BMW with an estimated value of $30,000. In addition to drugs, DEA seizures from Operation Dictator included approximately $50,000 in cash, three vehicles, one uzi, and one bulletproof vest.
Drew Parenti, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Sacramento, said "The success of Operation Valley Star is an example of the significant accomplishments that can occur when agencies from the federal, state, and local level combine resources and manpower to combat critical crime issues in their territory. This investigation has struck a significant blow to Nuestra Familia, a violent prison gang that directs the criminal activities of Norteño street gang members in Northern California."
According to Assistant United States Attorneys Jason Hitt and Karen A. Escobar, who are prosecuting the cases, if convicted of the conspiracy charges, the defendants in each case face a minimum prison sentence of 10 years, a maximum term of life, and a fine of $4,000,000. However, because Diaz, Amaro, Killinger, Ocampo, Stewart Hanson, Gauna, Cadena, Caracheo, and Castro have prior felony drug convictions, they are each facing a mandatory minimum prison term of 20 years, a maximum term of life, and a fine of $8,000,000.