BREAKING NEWS OUT OF LOS ANGELES

Los Angeles-area methamphetamine trafficking ring allegedly shipped drugs to Hawaii disguised as Aztec calendars and statues

SANTA ANA, Calif. – Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), this morning arrested eight defendants named in a grand jury indictment that alleges a scheme to send methamphetamine to Hawaii, including nearly 12 kilograms of narcotics made to look like decorative Aztec calendars and statues.

Photo credit/ U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Today’s arrests, conducted with partners from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Cypress Police Department, follow the filing of a seven-count indictment on October 10. A ninth defendant charged in the indictment was already in federal custody on an unrelated case.

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The indictment alleges a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, including an attempted shipment on July 17 of 11.7 kilograms of pure methamphetamine from a post office in Garden Grove. Those drugs were part of a nearly 90-pound shipment that appeared to be colorful, decorative Mexican items, including replicas of the 500-year-old Aztec calendar stone.

“Methamphetamine – no matter how it’s packaged – is a powerful drug that devastates our communities,” said Mark Zito, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for HSI Los Angeles. “HSI will continue to closely collaborate with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to keep this dangerous contraband from reaching our streets.”

The indictment also alleges that members of the conspiracy, over the past year, sent to Hawaii a package containing about two pounds of methamphetamine and another with nearly five pounds of the drug.

All three of the narcotic shipments alleged in the indictment were intercepted by law enforcement.

The nine defendants named in the indictment are:

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  • Felix Salgado, 28, of Perris, who allegedly obtained wholesale quantities of methamphetamine on behalf of the conspiracy;
  • Vaimanino Lee Pomele, 49, of Garden Grove, who allegedly orchestrated the drug shipments to Hawaii;
  • German Bastidas Nunez, also known as “Cheque,” 46, of Moreno Valley, who allegedly supplied narcotics to Salgado and who was already in custody;
  • Fernando Caballero Rascon, 42, of Garden Grove, who allegedly purchased methamphetamine from Pomele;
  • James Arnold Borbon, also known as “Dino,” 58, of Garden Grove, an alleged customer of the drug ring;
  • Moises Rey Avina, 39, of Santa Ana, who allegedly purchased methamphetamine from Pomele;
  • Gary Wayne Minter, 55, of Victorville, who allegedly used his residence as a stash house;
  • Alejandra Pomele, who is Vaimanino’s wife; 44, also of Garden Grove, who allegedly delivered narcotics to a customer on at least one occasion; and
  • Stephen Dgewell Martin, 30, of Anaheim, who allegedly dropped off the shipment containing the methamphetamine disguised as Aztec calendars and statues at the post office.

The eight defendants taken into custody this morning are expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. If convicted of the charges in the indictment, each defendant would face a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five years in federal prison, and each potentially could be sentenced to decades in prison.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rosalind Wang of the Santa Ana Branch Office.

SOURCE – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

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