Skip to main content

An official website of the United States government

September 15, 2021Sells, AZ, United StatesNarcotics

Multi-agency investigation results in arrest, indictment of ‘drug-kingpin’ associated with Sinaloa Cartel

Transnational criminal organization trafficked methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine from Mexico to Alaska

SELLS, Ariz. - The Mexican leader of a transnational drug trafficking organization was arrested Sept. 10, at in Nogales, Arizona after being removed from Mexico to face federal charges for his role for trafficking narcotics directly from Mexico to Alaska.

Miguel Baez Guevara, 38, a United States citizen living in Mexico, was indicted by a federal grand jury on 17 counts related to his leadership role in trafficking narcotics directly from Mexico to Alaska. Guevara was arrested by Mexican immigration authorities from the Instituto Nacional de Migración in Sonora, Mexico, Sept. 10, and deported to the United States. U.S. law enforcement arrested Guevara upon his arrival in Arizona. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday in federal court in Phoenix, Arizona. He will remain detained pending his transfer to Alaska.

The indictment is the result of a coordinated effort by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Sells, Arizona, FBI, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service and DEA. Significant support was also provided by Anchorage Police Department, U.S. Customs & Border Patrol, the Alaska State Troopers, Ted Stevens International Airport Police and the Alaska National Guard. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona and other law enforcement agencies in the State of Arizona significantly assisted with this case.

According to the recently unsealed indictment, beginning in 2016 Guevara’s organization operated to import heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine directly from Mexico to Alaska. Guevara claimed membership in, and association with, the Sinaloa Cartel. Guevara’s network specifically targeted Alaska because they received higher profits for the illegal drugs due to Alaska’s significant distance from the Mexican sources of supply.

Using social media and encrypted messaging applications, Guevara’s network recruited drug couriers who lived in Alaska. The couriers were promised money or drugs in exchange for traveling to Mexico to collect the narcotics for transport back to Alaska. Couriers were required to submit photos of their driver’s license and other personal information. Guevara made it known he was associated with the Sinaloa Cartel and there were serious and violent repercussions for couriers who stole narcotics or provided information to law enforcement. The couriers often traveled in small groups with an assigned team leader. Couriers typically carried about 250 grams of narcotics on each trip. Once the couriers arrived in Alaska a member of Guevara’s network, who was stationed in Alaska, paid them and collected the narcotics. Street level dealers in Alaska contacted Guevara who coordinated the sale between his Alaska workers and the local dealer. Guevara did not cross into the United States due to outstanding federal and state arrest warrants but conducted all operations from Mexico.

The Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute 21 U.S.C. § 848 is often referred to as the “Kingpin Statute.” The statute is designed to reach the top brass in drug trafficking organizations, and not the lieutenants and foot soldiers. The statute was enacted to target large-scale profit-making enterprises engaged in the illegal importation, manufacture and distribution of controlled substances. A conviction carries a mandatory life sentence.

The indictment and arrest are part of an ongoing, large scale drug trafficking investigation dubbed “Operation Albondiga” which has resulted in the arrest and criminal charges of 23 individuals since 2016. The defendants (in alphabetical order) are as follows:

  1. Jason Alto, 25, pleaded guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, sentenced January 18, 2017 to 20 months imprisonment.
  2. Chinaya Begay, 26, pleaded guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, sentenced August 12, to time served (13 months).
  3. Mario Burgueno, 36, pleaded guilty in the District of Arizona to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin, sentenced June 12, 2019 to 120 months imprisonment.
  4. Dana Dwyer, 45, pleaded guilty to Felon in Possession of Firearms, sentencing scheduled for January 10, 2022.
  5. Travon Grays, 28, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances, sentenced March 2, to 37 months imprisonment.
  6. Jessica Hannah, 26, pleaded guilty to Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, sentenced June 7, to time served (7 months).
  7. Zanders Herndon, 39, pleaded guilty to Felon in Possession of Firearm and Ammunition, sentenced August 6, 2018 to 54 months imprisonment.
  8. Eva Houser, 38, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, sentenced January 3, 2019 to 36 months imprisonment.
  9. David Garcia Johnson, 29, pleaded guilty to Distribution of a Controlled Substance, sentenced January 11, to 46 months imprisonment.
  10. April Krause, 36, pleaded guilty in the District of Arizona to Conspiracy to Possess Counterfeit Obligations and Sureties of the United States and Bringing in Counterfeit Obligations, sentenced October 18, 2018 to 13 months imprisonment.
  11. Katrina Lundy, 41, pleaded guilty to Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, sentenced March 6, 2019 to 21 months imprisonment.
  12. Jarese Martinez, 28, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, sentenced November 2, 2018 to 120 months imprisonment.
  13. Victor Mizugay-Gallego, 24, pleaded guilty to Attempted Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute, sentencing scheduled for October 6.
  14. Alicia Norvell, 33, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, sentenced September 12, 2018 to time served (10 months).
  15. Mykki Orth, 55, pleaded guilty to Distribution of Controlled Substances, sentenced October 23, 2018 to 15 months imprisonment.
  16. Frances Pelch, 66, pleaded guilty to Attempted Possession with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, sentenced January 15, to 36 months imprisonment.
  17. Alicia Pierce, 27, pleaded guilty in the District of Arizona to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin, sentenced May 23, 2019 to time served (10 months).
  18. Jackie Polzel, 34, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, sentenced September 12, 2018 to 36 months imprisonment.
  19. Kelly Pretty, 35, pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances, sentenced May 2, 2018 to 16 months imprisonment.
  20. Jody Schuyler, 55, pleaded guilty in the District of Arizona to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin, sentenced May 21, 2019 to 12 months imprisonment.
  21. Audriel Soto, 25, pleaded guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, sentenced February 17, to 36 months imprisonment.
  22. Nicole Villa, 33, pleaded guilty in the District of Arizona to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin, sentenced April 3, 2019 to time served (10 months).
  23. Casey Wells, 39, pleaded guilty in the District of Arizona to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin, sentenced April 2, 2019 to time served (10 months).

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys with the District of Alaska, William Taylor, Allison O’Leary, and Chris Schroeder are prosecuting the case.

Operation Albondiga is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move.

HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 09/17/2021