California officials nab 11 in drug ring bust
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Authorities said Monday they have dismantled a drug trafficking organization that sent narcotics smuggled from Mexico to communities across the United States.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris joined law enforcement officials from the Central Valley in Fresno to announce the bust, which included the arrests of 11 people.
Harris said the group worked with street gangs associated with the Nuestra Familia prison gang to smuggle methamphetamine and cocaine through San Diego to the Central Valley and then distribute it to states such as Arkansas, Illinois and New York. In the arrests, agents seized 56 pounds of methamphetamine, 4 kilograms of cocaine, 942 marijuana plants, $268,775 in cash and a car.
Authorities said the group, called the Magana Drug Trafficking Organization, was headed by 33-year-old Jose Pastor Magana, who lived in Dinuba, a small farming community about 30 miles southeast of Fresno in Tulare County. He is charged with eight counts ranging from felony possession to transportation and sale of a controlled substance.
Magana’s attorney, Anthony Capozzi, was unavailable for comment.
Most of the suspects were arrested in Central California’s Tulare and Riverside counties, but two arrests happened in Jonesboro, Ark., and those suspects face related charges.
Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Dan Underwood said nine of the 11 he’s prosecuting have pleaded not guilty. Two defendants are charged in federal court.
At a news conference, Harris stood at two tables covered with bags of crystal methamphetamine and packaged cocaine seized in the arrests. The investigation began last summer, when agents suspected Magana of selling marijuana. She said the investigation revealed he was dealing in meth and cocaine.
Harris also used the occasion to call upon California legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown to restore part of the $71 million cut from her budget starting in 2011 for such anti-drug efforts. She said she’ll start by asking for $7.5 million to deploy more taskforces that made this take-down possible.
“It does not happen by itself,” she said. “It happens when we have the resources to do the job that we take seriously.”