BOISE, Idaho (KIFI) – Two multi-faceted, large-scale Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations have resulted in the federal indictments of 25 defendants on drug trafficking and firearms charges, U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit announced.
Seventeen indictments were issued over the last several months by federal grand juries sitting in Idaho along with an additional indictment in the District of Oregon.
According to the indictments, the defendants distributed large amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl throughout Southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon. Many of the individuals are alleged to have been in possession of firearms at the time they distributed the narcotics. During the course of these investigations and arrests, law enforcement seized approximately 98 pounds of methamphetamine, approximately 21,000 fentanyl pills, 531 grams of fentanyl powder, 38 firearms, three bullet-proof vests and $121,615 in U.S. currency. According to court records, it is alleged that several of these individuals are associated with local street gangs with ties to the Jalisco Nuevo Generation Cartel.
As part of these two OCDETF investigations, the following individuals have been charged with federal drug and gun violations:
- Sergio Cisneros-Guzman a/k/a Salamon Hernandez-Medina, residing in Nampa, Idaho, was indicted on seven counts of distribution of methamphetamine and one count of maintaining a drug-involved premise;
- Efren Avilez-Lopez, residing in Ontario, Oregon, was indicted for distributing 25 pounds of methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute 21 pounds of methamphetamine;
- Maria Medina-Zeveda, residing in Ontario, Oregon, was indicted for distributing 35 pounds of methamphetamine and possession with intent to distribute 21 pounds of methamphetamine;
- Efren Alexander Avilez-Pacheco, residing in Ontario, Oregon, was indicted on possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crime. Avilez-Pacheco, a Mexican national, is also facing violations of terms of his supervised release stemming from a 2019 federal drug trafficking conviction and his subsequent deportation to Mexico;
- Owenn Mitchell, of Salem, Oregon, was indicted on two counts of aiding and abetting the distribution of methamphetamine;
- Zach Vitale, of Idaho Falls, was indicted on one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl;
- Cheyanne Juarez, of Ontario, Oregon, was indicted on one count of distribution of methamphetamine;
- Jason Castillo, of Nampa, was indicted on one count of distribution of methamphetamine;
- Shaunda Buffi, of Caldwell, was indicted on one count of distribution of methamphetamine;
- Robert Glenn, of Nampa, was indicted on one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine;
- Anthony Lopez, of Caldwell, was indicted on one count of unlawful possession of a firearm;
- Megan Mackey, of Caldwell, was indicted on one count of distribution of methamphetamine;
- Breana Rojas, of Caldwell, was indicted on one count of distribution of methamphetamine;
- Rigoverto Hernandez, of Caldwell, was indicted on one count of aiding and abetting the distribution of methamphetamine, and one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and fentanyl;
- Bonifacio Nichiolas-Ruiz, of Caldwell, was indicted on one count of distribution of methamphetamine;
- Andrew Walthall, of Kuna, was indicted on one count of unlawful possession of a firearm and one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl;
- Jose Pedraza, of Meridian, was indicted on one count of distribution of methamphetamine;
- Sonya Trujillo, of Boise, was indicted on one count ofaiding and abetting the distribution of methamphetamine; and
- Michael McClain, of Boise, was indicted on one count of distribution of methamphetamine;
In addition to these indictments, Tracy Nunes, of Payette, was indicted on two counts of distribution of methamphetamine by a grand jury in the District of Oregon.
The OCDETF investigations also included several other defendants who were charged earlier with federal drug and gun violations:
- Isaac Bright pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and, on February 14, 2023, was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison. Bright was a documented member of Latin Kings gang with an extensive criminal history.
- Jordan Khan pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and, on March 14, 2023, was sentenced to 98 months in federal prison.
- Paul Almaraz pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of methamphetamine and is set for sentencing on September 25, 2023.
- Robert Chase pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm and is set for sentencing on August 31, 2023.
- Cesar Javier Avila-Molina pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and is set for sentencing on November 1, 2023.
Drug distribution charges carry mandatory minimum prison sentences depending on the amount and type of drugs distributed. Maximum prison sentences range from up to 20 years to life in prison. Unlawful possession of a firearm carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
“It is important for the public to know that federal, state, and local law enforcement are proactively working to dismantle drug trafficking enterprises in the Treasure Valley and elsewhere in Idaho,” U.S. Attorney Hurwit said. “The results of these investigations is a testament to the extremely strong partnerships we have in Idaho, which include working with partners in Oregon and elsewhere as needed. These cases send a strong message that Idaho is not open for the drug business.”
“These cases are a prime example of what law enforcement can accomplish when we pool our resources and work together,” said Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha of the Salt Lake City FBI. “There is no doubt that potentially countless number of lives were saved in the Treasure Valley because of the dismantling of these drug trafficking organizations. The FBI is committed to keeping all Idahoans safe.”
“The Jalisco Cartel is one of the main cartels responsible for the influx of methamphetamine and fentanyl into our communities,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matthew Gomm, who oversees operations in Idaho. “The relationships these cartels have with our local street gangs allow deadly and dangerous drugs to reach their last mile of distribution. These indictments are a testament to DEA’s unwavering commitment to make our communities safe and healthy through collaboration with our local, state, and federal partners.”
“It is my hope the announcement of these indictments will help bring some clarity to the enormity of the dangers our citizens and law enforcement face on a daily basis by the increased criminality of Transcontinental Criminal Organizations (TCO’s) in our communities,” said Canyon County Sheriff, Kieran Donahue. “The danger of an unprecedented supply and distribution of deadly drugs like “street” fentanyl is real, NOT imagined. I applaud the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho for their commitment to prosecute cases of this magnitude and for the support of our FBI Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crime and Gang Task Force and the investigators assigned to that team. We cannot, and will not, defeat these criminal organizations without strong collaboration and the force-multiplier approach of law enforcement partners.”
“The City of Caldwell and the Treasure Valley are a safer place now due to the collaborative efforts and relentless pursuit of justice exemplified by our brave men and women who defend the United States Constitution and enforce the rule of law,” said Caldwell Police Chief Rex Ingram. “I am proud of their unwavering selfless sacrifice and dedication to keeping Idaho safe.”
“Today’s announcement represents a significant step towards a safer society,” said Lieutenant Colonel Sheldon Kelley, Deputy Director Chief of Operations at the Idaho State Police. “The synergistic endeavors of the U.S. Attorney, law enforcement, and many community partners highlight the extraordinary results that arise from collaborative and unwavering teamwork. Together, we are resolute in our mission to secure our communities and eradicate drug and firearm-related criminal pursuits.”
“These cases are another great example of local law enforcement working with our federal partners on a common goal,” said Nampa Police Department Interim Chief Curt Shankel. “We work to make our state, city, and neighborhoods safe, and to get these dealers off our streets. Thank you to the United States Attorney’s Office for their dedication to these cases.”
“The Ontario Police Department, in partnership with the High Desert Drug Task Force, is committed to working with our federal, state, and local partners to disrupt and dismantle illegal trafficking and use of drugs in and around the city of Ontario,” said Police Chief Michael Iwai.
The cases were primarily investigated by the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crimes Task Force, which is led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. In addition to the work of the Metro Violent Crimes Task Force and the DEA, U.S. Attorney Hurwit thanked the following agencies for assisting in the investigations and arrests of the above named individuals: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Caldwell Police Department, City and County Narcotics Unit, the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, the Nampa Police Department, the Gem County Sheriff’s Office, the Idaho State Police, Idaho Department of Correction, the Owyhee County Sheriff’s Office, the Owyhee County Prosecutors Office, the Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), the Malheur County Sherriff’s Office, the Ontario Police Department, the Oregon State Police, and the High Desert Drug Task Force in Oregon.
Both the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crimes Task Force and the High Desert Task Force focus on local violent crime and gang activity and are comprised of federal, state, and local agencies. These cases are being prosecuted by several Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Districts of Idaho and Oregon, and the Special Assistant U.S. Attorney hired by the Treasure Valley Partnership and the State of Idaho to address gang crimes.
The Treasure Valley Partnership is comprised of a group of elected officials in southwest Idaho dedicated to regional coordination, cooperation, and collaboration on creating coherent regional growth.
U.S. Attorney Hurwit expressed his gratitude to all the law enforcement agencies and prosecutors for supporting the individual prosecutors and task force investigators who are achieving justice through their hard work.