Authorities Wednesday arrested 11 purported members of a long-running drug trafficking ring that allegedly distributed heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine from multiple locations in Los Angeles County, including a storefront in Lincoln Heights.
A 20-count indictment, filed in Los Angeles federal court, charges a total of 15 defendants with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and alleges a series of illegal acts as part of the conspiracy between December 2015 and December 2019.
Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized more than 17 pounds of cocaine, 11 pounds of heroin, 22 pounds of methamphetamine, 10 firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and more than $200,000 in suspected drug proceeds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The 11 defendants were expected to make their initial court appearances Wednesday afternoon in federal court in downtown Los Angeles.
The defendants include Gabriel “Nightowl” Ortega, 42, alleged to be one of the organization’s ringleaders. He’s accused of directing operations from his home in Lynwood and from a storefront he allegedly operated in Lincoln Heights.
Ortega sold nearly one pound of methamphetamine for $2,800 on two separate occasions at the storefront between December 2015 and February 2016, the indictment alleges.
Also arrested was Raul “Rawlo” Sanchez, 39, of Alhambra, another of the organization’s alleged ringleaders, who is charged with being one of the outfit’s primary distributors of narcotics. Specifically, on March 21, 2018, Sanchez allegedly coordinated the delivery of 10.8 pounds of cocaine, 8.6 pounds of heroin, and 15.4 pounds of meth to a storage facility in Alhambra. He’s also accused of possession of three unregistered “ghost guns,” one .45-caliber Glock pistol, and ammunition at the Alhambra location.
In addition to the conspiracy charge, Ortega and Sanchez each face individual charges of knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute controlled substances. Sanchez, who previously was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court of four separate drug possession charges, also has been charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
If convicted on all counts, the defendants would face sentences of between 10 years and life in federal prison.