Home San Diego Press Releases 2013 Federal Officials Arrest and Charge a Dozen Suspected Meth Traffickers

Federal Officials Arrest and Charge a Dozen Suspected Meth Traffickers

U.S. Attorney’s Office February 21, 2013
  • Southern District of California (619) 557-5610

Twelve suspected members of a methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking ring were arrested early Wednesday and today at the culmination of a year-long investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Major Mexican Traffickers’ Strike Force. All but two of the defendants appeared in federal court this afternoon for arraignment on drug conspiracy charges.

These arrests are associated with the unsealing of a criminal complaint Wednesday charging 19 defendants with conspiracy to traffic methamphetamine and cocaine. The investigation, known as Operation Crystal Haven, focused on a long-term distribution ring which was importing methamphetamine and cocaine from Tijuana- and Guadalajara-based cartels into San Diego County, where it was then distributed in areas of northern San Diego County and elsewhere.

The task force is a multi-agency effort to focus on Mexico-based drug trafficking organizations with ties to the San Diego area. Its members include the DEA, FBI, IRS, and ICE, with assistance from other federal and local law enforcement agencies as well. Including the previous arrest of another defendant in the case, as of today, a total of 13 defendants are in custody, charged with distributing methamphetamine and cocaine.

“We are relentlessly pursuing major trafficking organizations that operate in our neighborhoods and imperil our children,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “It’s gratifying to wrap up a lengthy investigation like this one with many arrests and drug seizures, knowing the community is safer because of our efforts.”

“The conclusion of this investigation marks the end of a large-scale methamphetamine transportation and distribution organization that has been operating in San Diego County,” says San Diego Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Special Agent in Charge William Sherman. “This organization was distributing multi-pound quantities of methamphetamine in our cities and making a huge profit. Throughout the course of the investigation, DEA and its law enforcement partners seized large quantities of methamphetamine and arrested 13 people who will not be selling their product on our streets.”

N. Dawn Mertz, Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation for the Los Angeles Field Office made the following comment on Operation Crystal Haven: “All drug trafficking organizations are motivated by profit and greed. By working closely with our law enforcement partners and using our financial expertise, IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to unravel the illicit financial networks created and used to launder the money generated by these narcotics organizations.”

Daphne Hearn, Special Agent in Charge, San Diego Field Office, said: “Through the combined efforts of local, state, and federal law enforcement, a significant methamphetamine criminal enterprise has been disrupted. The FBI will continue to work with our partners to make our communities a safer place.”

“ICE Homeland Security Investigations is committed to working together with our federal partners to combat dangerous drug trafficking that threatens public safety in our communities,” said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security in San Diego. “Our mutual goal is to dismantle these distribution networks that are at the core of illicit drug sales in the U.S. There is no better strategy to strengthen our law enforcement resources and achieve our goals than joint operations. ”

Case Number: 13mj0608


  • JOSE ISIDRO RODRIGUEZ-LARA, arrested 2/20/13
  • DAVID AGUILAR, arrested 2/20/13 
  • ALMA JAIME, arrested 2/20/13 
  • MANUEL MARCIAL, arrested 2/20/13 
  • FELIPE GARCIA-GALLEGOS, arrested 2/21/13
  • GUADALUPE NATALIE PEREZ, arrested 2/20/13 
  • JOSE LUIS LOPEZ, arrested 2/20/13 
  • ROSALIA LOURDES NIEVES, arrested 2/20/13 
  • ALICIA REYNA MARIN, arrested 2/20/13 
  • LEONARDO GARCIA-GAYTAN, in state custody 
  • NANCY BLANCAS-PENA, arrested 2/20/13 
  • SYLVIA SANCHEZ-ZARATE, arrested 2/20/13 
  • SYLVIA LARA, fugitive 
  • MIGUEL GUTIERREZ-MARANTES, arrested 2/20/13 

Summary of Charges

  • Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1) and 846—Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine
  • Maximum Penalties: Life in Custody; Minimum Custody: 10 years; Maximum Fine: $4 million


  • Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation 
  • Internal Revenue Service 
  • Department of Homeland Security-U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection 
  • San Diego County Sheriff’s Department 
  • Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
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