SAN DIEGO - Fifty-five individuals with ties to drug and gun trafficking in North County were charged Wednesday in documents unsealed by the U.S. District Attorney's Office in San Diego.
Ten federal indictments charged the defendants with crimes ranging from money laundering to heroin, meth and firearms trafficking.
The defendants include prominent drug dealers and documented gang members responsible for supplying heroin and meth to North County, the Attorney's Office said.
Authorities are continuing to look for seven defendants, two are in Mexico.
"Today we've taken out one of North County's largest heroin suppliers," Acting U.S. Alana Robinson said. "We anticipate seeing a huge impact now that these defendants are removed from our community, particularly in the North County cities of Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and other areas plagued by gangs."
The massive crackdown is the product of a yearlong investigation led by the North County Regional Gang Task Force, involving wiretaps, undercover drug and gun purchases, and extensive surveillance.
The Attorney's Office said many of the defendants are members or associates of violent North County street gangs, including:
- Vista Home Boys
- Varrio Fallbrook Locos
- Varrio Carlsbad Locos
- Encinitas Tortilla Flats
- Varrio San Marcos
- Escondido Viejo Diablos
The individuals arrested range in age from 20 to 55 years old and are from a range of locations including Vista, Fallbrook, Oceanside, Poway, Encinitas, Carlsbad, San Marcos, Escondido but also Chula Vista, Tijuana and Kingman, Arizona.
The raid was applauded by some members of the community, Frank Ramos telling 10News, “I think it’s wonderful. Trump in Washington is encouraging that, that’s wonderful.”
Another man said, “I feel safe for my family. Police presence is great support for the community.”
Female-led Sinaloa Cartel-linked heroin trafficking organization
In 2002, a former Vista High School student, defendant Yadira Esmeralda "Pini" Villalvazo, 38, was deported to Mexico after a drug conviction. While here she was "an associate of Vista Home Boys," the U.S. District Attorney's office said.
Villalvazo is still at large. According to court documents, Villalvazo, 38, is now running her own Sinaloa Cartel-linked organization from Tijuana. Her alleged specialty is still heroin.
Villalvazo's drug trafficking organization supplied at least 25 percent of the heroin sold and consumed in North County and grossed tens of thousands of dollars in proceeds that were sent back to Mexico, according to court documents.
Villalvazo's network allegedly distributed heroin in North County and supplied a prolific distribution ring in Kingman, Arizona.