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Final defendant linked to northern California meth ring pleads guilty

FRESNO, Calif. — The final of 13 defendants in a large-scale Tulare County drug smuggling and distribution ring pleaded guilty to drug charges in federal court Monday, signaling the end of a far-reaching multi-agency investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Michael Ramos, 25, of Terra Bella, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison after pleading guilty Monday to possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 3 before Chief U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii.

"This case is the product of a two-year Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation that resulted in five indictments and the conviction of 13 defendants," said U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. "The multi-agency investigation led to the dismantling of a drug trafficking organization that did great harm to many people, as well as to the communities of Terra Bella and Porterville."

According to court documents, Ramos obtained methamphetamine and cocaine from Adrian Negrete-Hernandez, 26, of Terra Bella, for distribution. Negrete-Hernandez pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana, and possessing firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking crimes.

In addition to Ramos and Negrete-Hernandez, the following 11 individuals were convicted in federal court as a result of the investigation:

  • Emeterio Angulo-Arechiga, 35, of Visalia;
  • Ismael Casas, 25, of Terra Bella;
  • Juan Delgado-Montenegro, 46, of Porterville;
  • Pedro Delgado-Montenegro, 32, of Porterville;
  • Leovardo Zuniga Gomez, 44, of Canby, Ore.;
  • Loreta Janet Martinez, 24, of Terra Bella;
  • Alejandro Mejia, 22, of Bakersfield;
  • Luis Cortez-Mendoza, 28, of Tulare;
  • Agueda Perez, 33, of Lindsay;
  • Olegario Trujillo, 26, of Tulare; and
  • Rosario Omar Valencia-Arce, 34, of Sinaloa, Mexico.

In addition to HSI, the OCDETF investigation was conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; the FBI; the Southern Tri-County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force; the Tulare and Kern County sheriff's offices; and the Bakersfield Police Department. In addition, the U.S. Marshals Service, along with the Fresno, Tulare and Porterville police departments provided significant assistance. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar of the U.S. Attorney's Office with the Eastern District of California.

For more information, visit www.ice.gov.