PALMDALE – A Palmdale couple was among 17 people arrested Wednesday in a federal takedown of a network of drug traffickers and Mexico-based suppliers that imported large quantities of Mexican cocaine, heroin and high-purity crystal methamphetamine into the Los Angeles area, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Roberto “Rigo” Murillo Sanchez, 50, and his wife Nora Millan, 38, were arrested and their residence at 2148 Moonlight Court in Palmdale was searched Wednesday. The two Mexican citizens are named in federal charges stemming from a 10-month wiretap investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Torrance Police Department and IRS-Criminal Investigation.
“This investigation has dealt a serious blow to a trafficking network we believe was funneling significant quantities of high-grade methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin into the Los Angeles area,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HIS Los Angeles. “In fact, the Mexican-made methamphetamine seized in this case is some of the most pure we’ve ever seen. [Wednesday’s] arrests have disrupted a potentially deadly supply chain and prevented untold quantities of dangerous drugs from reaching our streets.”
The wiretap investigation revealed that Murillo controlled an organization, which received smuggled loads of crystal methamphetamine and cocaine from multiple sources in Mexico, according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint.
Murillo would then have his stash house operator and drug courier deliver the drugs in pound or kilogram quantities to several drug associates.
The federal wiretaps also revealed that Murillo’s organization is a tight-knit group of individuals and that Murillo has been involved in the drug business for a long period of time. Murillo then used the drug profits to purchase properties and other valuable assets, according to the affidavit.
Murillo’s wife, Nora Millan, served as a drug courier, according to the affidavit. During a federal surveillance operation on March 18, three kilograms of cocaine were discovered taped to Millan’s body, according to the affidavit. Millan told agents that an unknown man taped the kilograms of cocaine to her body and that she believed they were “pillows,” the affidavit states. Millan then told agents that she was to deliver the “pillows” to an unknown location and to an unknown individual, according to the affidavit. Millan was arrested on March 18 and then released to protect the investigation.
During the past three months, the investigation has resulted in the seizure of approximately 135 pounds of methamphetamine, 15 kilograms of cocaine, 1.2 pounds of black tar heroin and $100,000 in cash, authorities said.
The affidavit discusses four loosely related drug-distribution cells, one of which is allegedly operated by the owner of a San Fernando Valley auto shop. Gerardo Celis Gaytan, 41, of Sun Valley, who operates Campos Auto Repair in North Hollywood, was heard on federal wiretaps discussing loads of heroin and other drugs smuggled from Mexico in vehicles his auto repair shop had outfitted with hidden compartments, according to the affidavit.
Another defendant, Gregorio Martinez Rios, 42, of North Hollywood, allegedly used his taco shop – The House of Tacos in Van Nuys – as a storage location for drugs.
Murillo, Millan, Gaytan and Martinez were among the 17 defendants arrested in Wednesday’s takedown.
The criminal complaint charges 43 defendants. Four more defendants were already in federal custody in San Diego, and authorities are continuing to search for 22 defendants. The defendants named in the complaint are:
- Roberto Murillo Sanchez, 50, of Palmdale, arrested Wednesday;
- Nora Millan, 38, of Palmdale, arrested Wednesday;
- Gerardo Celis Gaytan, 41, of Sun Valley, who operates Campos Auto Repair in North Hollywood, arrested Wednesday;
- Gregorio Martinez Rios, 42, of North Hollywood, owner of The House of Tacos, arrested Wednesday;
- David Trujillo, 40, of Pacoima, an employee at Gaytan’s auto shop, arrested Wednesday;
- Carlos David Martinez Galvan, 23, of Chula Vista, arrested Wednesday;
- Benjamin Avalos Zarate, 52, of Lompoc, fugitive;
- Sergio Ramos Ibarra, 23, of Adelanto, arrested Wednesday;
- Jaime Galarza, 44, of Apple Valley, arrested Wednesday;
- Jasmin Elisa Parra Barraza, 32, of Long Beach, arrested Wednesday;
- Rodolfo Raygoza Tiznado, 33, of Mexico, fugitive;
- Herculano Medina Rosales, 44, of Chino, fugitive;
- Joel Ahumada Pacheco, 48, of Tijuana, fugitive;
- Amador Herrera Cosio, 37, formerly of Long Beach, now a resident of Mexico, arrested Wednesday;
- Candelario Elias-Camacho, 47, of Mexico, fugitive;
- Jorge Fernando Bermudez, 31, of Garden Grove, arrested Wednesday;
- Jonas Carrillo Partida, 36, of Tijuana, fugitive;
- Ricardo Bazua Perez, 39, of Riverside, fugitive;
- Nereyda Benetiz, 40, of Riverside, arrested Wednesday;
- Vicente Sanchez Hernandez, 40, of Sylmar, arrested Wednesday;
- Juan Machado Martinez, 33, of Sylmar, arrested Wednesday;
- Maria Cardenas Machado, 50, of San Bernardino, arrested Wednesday;
- Juan Manuel Ruiz Jr., 28, of San Diego, who is at large, but who has agreed to surrender to authorities;
- Rogelio Ramon Bohon Chao, 41, of Imperial Beach, in custody in San Diego;
- Jesus Jacobo Escobar, 52, of Mexico, in custody in San Diego;
- Hermila Moreno, 36, of Rialto, in custody in San Diego;
- Florencio Fernandez Galarza, 45, of Hesperia, in custody in San Diego, and
- A series of defendants who are charged under their first names or who are identified only as “FNU LNU” – First Name Unknown, Last Name Unknown.
All of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, a charge that carries a penalty of up to 40 years in federal prison.