Press Release from US Attorney’s Office – Arizona:
8 INDIVIDUALS ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH DRUG TRAFFICKING AND MONEY LAUNDERING INVESTIGATION
TUCSON, Ariz. – Eight people were arrested on August 9, 2011, in Tucson, based on an 8-count Indictment charging them with a criminal enterprise, four conspiracies, and other charges alleging possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, money laundering, and Arizona Motor Vehicle Division fraud in connection with drug trafficking. The case was unsealed in federal court on Friday, August 12, 2011.
The investigation into a Tucson-based interstate drug smuggling organization-entitled Operation Blood Fellows-began nearly two years ago after FBI agents learned that the leader of the Nebraska chapter of the notorious “Bloods” street gang was obtaining marijuana from a source in Tucson. Marcos Cruz, as lead defendant, was charged in seven of the counts, including the continuing criminal enterprise charge. Also arrested with Cruz were Sandra Yvette Mendivil Redondo, Manuel Gortari Redondo, Julio Cesar Chiquete, Angel Alberto Rodriguez, Martin Servando Cruz, Aaron Vidrio Martinez, and Elsa Rodriguez, all of whom are related or closely associated to Marcos Cruz. An additional defendant, Sandra Cruz Noreiga, was already in custody on unrelated charges. Three other defendants remain at large.
“We are working to shut a revolving door for drugs at the U.S. – Mexico border,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke. “Taking down and dismantling large-scale trafficking operations like this demonstrates the unyielding commitment from our office and our partners at FBI, HSI, and other federal and local law enforcement to stop drug traffickers and secure the border.”
“These arrests stem from the collaborative efforts of the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, Counter Narcotics Alliance, and the Pima County Sheriff’s Office,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge James L. Turgal Jr., Phoenix Division. “When a group of individuals allegedly conspire to distribute illegal drugs, commit motor vehicle fraud, and engage in money laundering, it affects our neighborhoods and undermines the rule of law. The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and target those who engage in criminal enterprise activity.”
Each defendant, with the exception of Elsa Rodriguez, is charged with at least one count that carries a minimum term of 10 years imprisonment. Marcos Cruz, who is charged with the criminal enterprise charge, faces a term of 20 years to life imprisonment on that charge. Elsa Rodriguez is charged only with the money laundering conspiracy charge, which carries a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. Each of the counts of the indictment also bears the possibility of a fine in addition to the terms of imprisonment.
An indictment is simply a method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation was conducted the FBI, with assistance from ICE Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Tucson Counter-Narcotics Alliance, the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, and the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division Investigations Section. The prosecution is being handled by David P. Flannigan and Robert A. Fellrath, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Tucson.
CASE NUMBER: CR 11-2729-TUC-DCB (JM)