FRESNO,CA (May 13, 2019) — U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced Thursday that a federal jury found Filiberto “Beto” Chavez, 37, of Fresno, guilty of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine, possessionwith intent to distribute methamphetamine, conspiracy to engage in interstate travel for prostitution and two counts of use of a facility of interstate commerce to promote prostitution,.
HSI is a principal investigative arm of ICE, aligned under the Department of Homeland Security, and is a vital U.S. asset incombating criminal organizations illegally exploiting America's travel, trade, financial and immigration systems. Other law enforcement and legal participants in this case included the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms andExplosives; Drug Enforcement Administration; Fresno Police Department; Multi‑Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium; Fresno County Sheriff’s Office; and Fresno County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly A. Sanchez, Jeffrey Spivak, andThomas Newman are prosecuting the case.
U.S. Attorney Scott stated: “This verdict is the result of law enforcement partners at the federal, state and local level working as one to pursue criminal gangs and their associates. We will continue to work tirelessly together to protect our communities and to hold accountable those who threaten our safety.”
According to court documents and testimony, Chavez sold methamphetamine to a convicted codefendant, Robert Lockhart, on July8, 2017. Convicted codefendant Amina Padilla stored methamphetamine for Chavez and gave a portion of what she had stored to convicted codefendant Carlos Melgar to deliver to Lockhart. On July 11, 2017, agents served search warrants at Padilla’s and Lockhart’sapartments and seized methamphetamine from both.
Additionally, in June and July of 2017, Chavez was pimping a prostitute using the assistance of Padilla to post prostitution ads on the internet. Chavez invited convicted codefendants Carlos Montano and Miguel Murillo to join him in New York to engage in prostitution activities with each of their prostitutes. On July 2, 2017, Chavez flew from California to New York with his prostitute.On July 18, 2017, Montano and Murillo flew from California to New York and subsequently began engaging in prostitution activities.
“Public safety is at the core of ATF’s mission,” said Special Agent in Charge Ray Roundtree, San Francisco Field Division, ATF. “We believe in working with our partners in a collaborative effort to uphold our commitment to the communities we serve. These partnerships are one of the greatest assets we have against criminals. It is a successful day for the community as a whole when wecan put an end to any egregious and violent behavior conducted within our neighborhoods. ATF will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners and honor our pledge to the public to remove criminals and their criminal activity from our streets.”
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer stated: “It excites me to see ruthless gang members removed from our society, especially those like Filiberto Chavez who treat women as property through violent acts of sex trafficking. Filiberto Chavez and his fellow conspirators have proven they belong behind bars.”
Chavez is scheduled to be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill on August 5. Chavez faces a maximum statutorypenalty of life in prison and a $30,750,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a numberof variables.
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa A. Smittcamp stated, “I congratulate U.S. Attorney Scott and Assistant U.S. AttorneysKimberly Sanchez, Jeffrey Spivak, and Thomas Newman on an outstanding job bringing Filiberto Chavez to justice. This conviction is yet another example of how cooperation between our local law enforcement agencies, the District Attorney and the United StatesAttorney works for the people of Fresno County. The Federal and local teams came together under the umbrella of the Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium and worked as one, focused on high ranking members of the Lewis Street Bulldogs criminal street gang.Special thanks to Senior Deputy District Attorney Lewis and the Officers and Deputies of MAGEC who gave their all to put this case together.”
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crimereduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensivesolutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF Program was established in 1982 toconduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizationsand those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.