DENVER — Twenty people were arrested Wednesday following the two separate federal grand jury indictments charging 22 defendants with crimes related to trafficking methamphetamine and international money laundering. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney's Office of the District of Colorado, and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force's (OCDETF) Strike Force.
All 20 people were arrested May 30 without incident in Metro Denver, California, Utah and Iowa. The two others not arrested are considered fugitives from justice. The first indictment involves 11 defendants and 135 counts. The second indictment involves 11 additional defendants and 22 counts. Most of those arrested appeared in U.S. District Court in Denver Wednesday where they were advised of the charges pending against them.
During the course of the investigation, including fruits from search warrants executed May 30, agents and officers seized more than six pounds of methamphetamine, $715,340 in currency, one firearm and property. Five vehicles were seized, including two 2004 Freightliner tractor trailers, and a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.
The arrests are a culmination of a year-and-a-half long OCDETF investigation known as Dark Angel, which targeted the Armando Mendoza-Haro drug trafficking organization (DTO), which has ties to Mexico. The DTO utilized corrupt drivers from a trucking company, using their semi-tractor trailers to move methamphetamine from California to Colorado. The tractor trailers were also used to move money back from Colorado to California. In one instance, the money was hidden in a truck load of milk. The DTO also used other means to send money back to California, including one instance where a minor had cash strapped to his body as he was being driven to California.
One unique aspect of this investigation was the money laundering the defendants allegedly engaged in. The defendants attempted to conceal and disguise the origin of the methamphetamine proceeds. They did this by depositing the methamphetamine proceeds into various bank accounts at financial institutions (called funnel accounts). In an attempt to avoid bank-reporting requirements, the defendants structured the deposits into the accounts by making deposits less than $10,000. Financial institutions are required to file a currency transaction report (CTR) for currency transactions more than $10,000. To further conceal the ownership and source of the methamphetamine proceeds in the funnel accounts, the defendants moved the funds that were deposited into the funnel accounts to other accounts via wire transfers. These wire transfers included transferring funds domestically and internationally. In some instances there were subsequent wire transfers back to the original funnel accounts with cash withdrawals made in California, avoiding the $10,000 reporting requirement.
Commissioned in July 2011, the mission of the Denver OCDETF Strike Force is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute the command and control structure of major international and interstate drug transportation and smuggling organizations operating in and through the Mountain West region of the United States through collaborative criminal and financial investigations. The Denver OCDETF Strike Force is one of only 11 across the country. The Strike Forces are mostly housed in large cities.
The Denver OCDETF Strike Force is comprised of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations, U.S. Marshals Service, Aurora Police Department, Colorado State Patrol, Denver Police Department, Fort Collins Police Services, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, and Lakewood Police Department.
Those arrested May 30 include the following:
- Armando Mendoza-Haro (Northglenn, Colo.)
- Jesus Segovia (Denver, Colo.)
- Miguel Angel Sanchez (San Bernardino, Calif.)
- Daniela Munguia de Ortiz (Pomona, Calif.)
- Yuly Hernandez-Orozco (Edgewater, Colo.)
- Alejandro Morales-Garcia (Marshalltown, Iowa)
- Carlos Martin Segura Chang (Downey, Calif.)
- Sonia Perez (Denver, Colo.)
- Reyna Mendoza-Haro (Corcoran, Calif.)
- Jaime Moreno-Lopez (currently in BOP custody)
- Ricky Henry Cisneros (Denver, Colo.)
- Ivan Gomez-Avila (Denver, Colo.)
- Shana Louise Claybourn (Denver, Colo.)
- Cris Anthony Sandoval (Lakewood, Colo.)
- Todd Joseph Trujillo (Westminster, Colo.)
- Kennie Ray Snyder (currently in state custody)
- Christina Rose Malmgren (Highlands Ranch, Colo.)
- Desiree Rose Ceballes (Glendale, Colo.)
- Ricardo Paniagua-Rodriguez (San Ysidro, Calif.)
- Sergio Mendoza-Valdovinos (Utah)
"Thanks to the outstanding efforts of the OCDETF Strike Force, twenty-two drug dealers have been charged with trafficking methamphetamine, most of which was delivered to Metro Denver," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. "This week's arrests will have an impact on the availability of methamphetamine on the streets of Denver."
"The indictments we are announcing today reflect the hard work of Denver OCDETF Strike Force, who targeted a Mexican drug trafficking organization responsible for the transportation of significant quantities of methamphetamine from California to Colorado," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Barbra Roach. "In addition to the drug trafficking aspects of this investigation, it is important to note the success investigators had in detecting and charging the money laundering scheme."
"Methamphetamine-trafficking organizations are deeply rooted in money and greed," said Michael Holt, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Denver. "HSI routinely uses our unique law enforcement authorities in such operations to specifically target the finances that drive these crimes."
"IRS – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) is committed to fighting the war on drugs in conjunction with our law enforcement partners," said Sean Sowards, Special Agent in Charge of IRS – Criminal Investigation, Denver Field Office. "IRS-CI has the financial investigators and expertise to disrupt these organizations and deprive them of their illicit gains."
"Long term collaborative investigations like 'Dark Angel' are invaluable, especially when they achieve this kind of success," said Denver Police Chief Robert White. "Getting 22 drug dealers and their narcotics off the street will make Denver a much safer city."
"This multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional investigation will curtail the illegal drug market in the Western United States," said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge James Yacone. "We will continue the efforts with our federal, state and local partners to aggressively investigate and prosecute these drug smuggling organizations that impact our communities."
If convicted, the defendants face penalties ranging from not less than 10 years and up to life in federal prison, to not less than five years and up to 20 years, depending on the quantity of drugs they are accused of trafficking. Some face not more than 20 years in federal prison for money laundering and/or other drug trafficking charges. Others face not more than four years for using a communication facility (i.e., a phone) while committing the felony drug offense.
The indictments also include asset forfeiture allegations. If convicted, the defendants shall forfeit their right, title and interest in all property constituting and derived from any proceeds obtained directly and indirectly as a result of their crimes.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary Phillips and Kasandra Carleton. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tonya Andrews assisted with the asset forfeiture aspect of this case.
The charges contained in the indictments are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.