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Feds launch raids in Valley

Drug traffickers focus of probe

POSTED January 30, 2014 1:57 p.m.

A year-long multiagency operation of federal and state law enforcement served search warrants and made arrests Wednesday at multiple locations in Stanislaus and Merced counties as part of an ongoing investigation into a narcotics ring trafficking in methamphetamine and marijuana.

The coordinated raids resulted in 11 arrests and the seizure of methamphetamine, marijuana and firearms. Some of the individuals arrested were: Francisco Felix, Alejandro Martinez, Augustin Ramirez, Miguel Felix, Sergio Modesto, Antonio Ramirez, Gerardo Barraza, and Martin Lopez, according to the criminal complaint filed with the federal court.

Law enforcement raided 18 locations, including one in Turlock in the 1300 block of N. Vincent Road. Antonio Ramirez was taken into custody at the Turlock residence.

During the searches, authorities encountered five indoor marijuana grow operations, including one with more than 2,100 plants. In addition, investigators seized a shotgun, two handguns, nearly 60 pounds of processed marijuana and more than $20,000 in cash, according to authorities.

Authorities allege the drug trafficking organization targeted in the probe was cultivating marijuana and distributing methamphetamine. Evidence uncovered during the investigation indicates the ring used sophisticated methods to conceal and smuggle the contraband, including commercial trucks with hollowed out drive shafts and vehicles equipped with hidden compartments.

The investigation was launched after a confidential informant stated he had delivered methamphetamine to two neighboring horse ranch properties in Patterson. The informant also stated methamphetamine was being manufactured at the properties.

Of the 11 individuals detained Wednesday on criminal violations, six are facing federal charges. The five remaining criminal suspects will likely be prosecuted for state offenses, according to Homeland Security Investigations. In addition to the criminal arrests, investigators detained another 20 individuals encountered at the search locations on administrative immigration violations.

 Wednesday’s enforcement actions are the latest development in an investigation conducted by the California Department of Justice’s Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation Team under the auspices of the Central Valley HIDTA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program. Agencies participating in the probe include, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigations; the Placer County District Attorney’s Office; the California Department of Corrections, Office of Correctional Safety, Special Services Unit; the sheriff’s offices from Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties; the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; and the California National Guard Counter Drug Taskforce. The prosecution is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.

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