A jury trial date has been set for alleged Mexican cartel members who law enforcement officials say used homes in the Axton area to move and distribute large amounts of drugs from at least 2015 until 2019.
According to federal court documents in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia Harrisonburg Division, the jury trial is set to last from April 20 until May 15, 2020.
The trial will be heard in Harrisonburg before Judge Elizabeth K. Dillion.
A federal grand jury indicted 12 individuals on March 5, 2019, for conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances within the United States. Those indicted are:
Miguel Angel Patricio-Cajero,
Isidro Ramos-Bojorquez or Chilo,
Jesus Rogelio Ramirez or Jesse,
Jonathan Rocas-Osorio or Oscar Osorio-Munoz,
Ana Bella Sanchez-Rios,
Ritchie Triplett, and
Ernesto Valenzuela-Flores or Juan Flores-Arrellano.
The controlled substances included cocaine, heroin, and marijuana according to court documents.
Gomez-Barajas is allegedly responsible for more than 500 grams of cocaine.
Idearte-Bolanos is allegedly responsible for more than one kilogram of heroin.
Jijon is allegedly responsible for more than 500 grams of cocaine.
Patricio-Cajero is allegedly responsible for more than 500 grams of cocaine.
Ramos-Bojorquez is allegedly responsible for more than 500 grams of cocaine.
Rocas-Osorio is allegedly responsible for more than 500 grams of cocaine.
Triplett is allegedly responsible for more than 500 grams of cocaine.
The grand jury also indicted Contreras-Devora for possession of firearm after he was found to be possessing a Taurus .380 caliber handgun, the documents state.
Sanchez-Rios was also indicted by the grand jury for transmitting funds derived from a criminal offense from around May 2016 until Sept. 2018.
As part of the conspiracy, members and affiliates of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), a Mexican-based criminal organization that controls a significant portion of narcotics trafficking in Mexico, transported cocaine, heroin, and marijuana in addition to other controlled substances into the United States from Mexico.
Axton and Winchester were allegedly chosen by the cartel as locations for recruits from Mexico to distribute controlled substances throughout the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States for CJNG.
The defendants in the case maintained multiple residences in Axton for the purpose of receiving, storing, packaging, and distributing multiple kilograms of cocaine and multiple pounds of marijuana.
According to court documents, packages containing 15 to 20 pounds of marijuana were received via the United States Postal Service and sent from addresses in California to Axton.
Monthly shipments of around 20 kilograms of cocaine were also made to Axton.
The drugs were then allegedly distributed and transported to Winchester from Axton for further distribution.
All the while, cartel members moved large amounts of U.S. currency as payment for the controlled substances.
Two of the drug trafficking operations were known as Triton and Poseidon, according to a Jan. 29, 2019 criminal complaint and arrest warrant against Ramos-Bojorquez.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Thomas F. Hickey, who swore out the complaint and warrant, said Triton was a network of cocaine distributors residing and operating in Virginia and West Virginia.
Poseidon was a network of cocaine distributors operating and residing primarily in Virginia.
Both networks were allegedly being supplied drugs by CJNG individuals from the regions of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Veracruz.
It was later determined some of the individuals involved with Triton and Poseidon allegedly were also involved in a drug trafficking investigation in Martinsville, Axton and Danville. That investigation was being led by the DEA’s Roanoke resident office.
Surveillance and bust
On Feb. 1, 2018, the DEA and FBI served 12 federal search warrants on several residences in Axton and Harrisonburg according to Hickey’s criminal complaint.
According to court documents, law enforcement officials seized 12 kilograms of cocaine, five pounds of marijuana, over $100,000, and several firearms from locations in Axton during the large scale bust.
According to Danville Police Department Lieutenant Mike Wallace, the cocaine could have a wholesale value between $28,000 to $30,000 per kilogram, or roughly $336,000 to 360,000 total value for the 12 kilograms.
Prior to the bust, the DEA conducted several controlled purchases and surveillance operations were performed in Axton and Winchester.
A controlled purchase was made by law enforcement officials for four ounces of cocaine for $4,400 on Aug. 23, 2017. The cocaine was analyzed and found to weigh 111.8 grams with a purity of 87 percent.
On Sept. 20, 2017, law enforcement purchased another four ounces of cocaine, which was analyzed and found to be 90 percent pure.
Another four ounces were purchased on Oct. 26, 2017 by law enforcement and found to be 89 percent pure.
Less than a month later on Nov. 19, 2017, the DEA intercepted communications between Ibarra-Ayon and Jose Santacruz-Godinez that indicated Ibarra-Ayon was on the way to Axton to pick up five ‘snacks,’ or what Agent Hickey believed to be five kilograms of cocaine.
Additional communications were intercepted on Dec. 4, 2017 for plans to pick up four kilograms of cocaine on Dec. 5 by Ibarra-Ayon in Axton and then travel to Winchester.
Surveillance teams confirmed Ibarra’s actions in Axton and watched as he traveled in a 1997 Ford F-150 to Winchester the same day.
Law enforcement officials learned one day before the bust on Jan. 31, 2018, that Hernandez-Sanchez at the direction of Ibarra-Ayon planned to travel to Axton to pick up six kilograms of cocaine.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force developed a cooperating witness in Feb. 2018 to purchase cocaine from Ramos-Bojorquez.
According to court documents, the witness said they previously saw Ramos-Bojorquez with multiple ‘bricks’ of cocaine. They also told law enforcement officials he would use Facebook Messenger to communicate about cocaine transactions.
On Feb. 28, 2018, the cooperating witness conducted a controlled purchase from Ramos-Bojorquez for 14 grams of cocaine for $625 in Winchester.
In Jan. 2019, the cooperating witness met with Ramos-Bojorquez and purchased a half ounce of cocaine in Winchester during a meet that was recorded by authorities.
During the meeting, Ramos-Bojorquez told the cooperating witness he used to keep larger amounts of cocaine in his home, but had stopped after several friends had been arrested the previous year.
After the purchase, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force executed a state search warrant on Ramos-Bojorquez’s home. Seven ounces of cocaine were seized in addition to $10,000 in U.S. currency.
Before the trial is held in April, a status conference is set to be heard in federal court at 9:30 a.m. on March 3, 2020, in Harrisonburg.