Two dozen suspected gang members and associates described as "foot soldiers" for the Mexican Mafia, were arrested in a scheme to deliberately get themselves arrested to smuggle drugs and syringes hidden in their bodies into San Bernardino County jails, according to federal indictments.
The 24 suspects were arrested during a large gang sweep throughout San Bernardino County Thursday morning. An additional 10 defendants already in custody were charged in eight indictments that were unsealed Thursday. One defendant, Angel Martinez, remains at large.
Authorities said they were targeting the leadership or heads of the Westside Verdugo gang, and called the years long investigation "Operation Westside Guillotine."
Westside Verdugo gang members were described as being "foot soldiers" for the Mexican Mafia. Investigators found that the gang members were collecting extortion payments on behalf of the Mexican Mafia and discovered a "large scale methamphetamine and heroin distribution network," Paul Delacourt, the FBI's assistant director in charge of the Los Angeles office, said.
Those named in the indictment face federal drug, gun, money laundering and identity theft charges.
Nick Hanna, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California said the gang has been active in Southern California for more than 50 years and is responsible for spreading drugs and violence throughout the community.
One of the indictments details how members of the gang distributed meth, heroin and marijuana in the jail system from July 2017 to April 2019.
Three of the indictments allege that Carlos Antonio Aznaran, 24, of Rialto, was the leader in the narcotics-trafficking schemes and that he his wife, Elisa Montes, 28, conspired to distribute methamphetamine in San Bernardino. Aznaran and others also allegedly possessed guns and ammunition.
In one case, Aznaran and other defendants planned for another gang member, Trevor Harris, a.k.a. “Eminem,” and “Vice,” 28, of San Bernardino, to get himself arrested so he could smuggle narcotics to people in jail.
Harris was arrested in July 2017 after allegedly tampering with a vehicle and was taken into custody. Police had been monitoring phone calls at the jail and a search recovered about 43 grams of meth, 50 grams of heroin, five syringes and 20 packets of the opioid Suboxone from Harris’ anal cavity, according to the indictment. The drugs were allegedly separated into multiple packets with monikers written on them to indicate who would receive the drugs.
In another incident, Ernest Madrid, 48, of San Bernardino, was arrested on a probation violation in September 2017 after saying he was “trying to get busted” so he could smuggle drugs into a jail. After his arrest, about 78 grams of methamphetamine, 12 grams of heroin and five syringes were found concealed in his anal cavity. Authorities also discovered two telephone numbers, allegedly used by Aznaran, written in marker on Madrid’s legs, according to the indictments.
During the investigation, authorities also discovered that two of the gang’s associates had the personal information of “dozens of unsuspecting victims” used to commit fraud.
During the investigation, law enforcement officials also seized 30 pounds of meth, 4 pounds of heroin and 23 firearms, Delacourt said.
The defendants charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances face a minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a maximum sentenced of life in federal prison.
The FBI, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, and the San Bernardino Police Department conducted the investigation, and the Fontana Police Department the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives the Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the San Bernardino County Probation and Parole Departments assisted.