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Prison terms for Nuestra Familia gang members

A ring of drug traffickers associated with the Nuestra Familia prison gang were sentenced to prison terms Monday for a variety of drug and racketeering offenses in the Central Valley.

Federal and local law enforcement previously arrested numerous individuals suspected of trafficking in methamphetamine and collecting debts in Kings, Tulare, Kern, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, and Fresno counties for Nuestra Familia.

“Numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in this region came together to take on one of the most dangerous gangs in California,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. “Our work is not done, but many of the most powerful members of the Nuestra Familia will be spending many years in federal prison in places far removed from the Central Valley.”

According to court documents, during 2009 and 2010, Nuestra Familia obtained large shipments of methamphetamine from Mexico and distributed it among regiments throughout California and elsewhere. Some of the profits of the trafficking funded gang members in prison in order to maintain the power structure within the prison system.

“Organized prison gangs and other criminals who traffic drugs are responsible for increased violence in our communities,” stated Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Riehl. “This investigation is a prime example of teamwork and superior collaboration among many law enforcement agencies with a successful investigative conclusion and prosecution.”

In total, 37 defendants were sentenced to federal prison, 18 of them to 10 years or more in prison. One defendant was sentenced to probation. They were sentenced for drug trafficking offenses committed to advance the Nuestra Familia gang.

On Monday, Jose Velez, 32, of Delano, was sentenced to 30 years in prison; Felipe Ramirez, 34, of Visalia, was sentenced to 28 years in prison; Christopher Medrano, 33, of Hanford, was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison; Raymond Avalos, 31, of Hanford, was sentenced to 20 years in prison; and Calixtro Israel Sanchez, 26, of Hanford, was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison.

On April 28, Shawn Michael Cameron, 38, of Hanford, was sentenced to 32 years in prison; Jonathan Mojarro, 24 of Hanford, was sentenced to 13 years in prison. On April 23, Richard Salas, 28, of Hanford, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The federal charges were dismissed for four defendants in favor of significant state sentences.

All the defendants in this case pleaded guilty to the charges and did not go to trial.

The “significant sentences demonstrate the success multi-agency Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces have in achieving the common goal in reducing violence and drug trafficking by taking offenders off the streets,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Sacramento FBI. “The FBI is committed to ongoing unified collaboration with our partners to identify, disrupt, and dismantle violent gangs who pose a threat to safety and quality of life in our communities.”