Feds: 18 charged in Ohio-Mexico drug operation & fake immigration ID business


COLUMBUS, Ohio – A federal grand jury has charged 18 people in conspiracies to distribute heroin, launder money back to Mexico and run a fake immigration identification business.

Thirteen of the defendants were arrested in central Ohio Tuesday. According to the Department of Justice, custody will be sought for the other five defendants in California.

According to the indictment, Diego Ernesto Castaneda-Garcia was allegedly the leader of a drug trafficking organization that received imported heroin from Mexico, repackaged it into user quantities and sold it to heroin users in and around central Ohio.

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The defendants are accused of arranging for workers to be smuggled into the United States from Mexico to travel to central Ohio and distribute heroin.

Co-conspirators allegedly packaged heroin into foil balls called “fechas” – which roughly translates to “coins” in English – containing 1/10th of a gram of narcotics.

Heroin was sold to users in public parking lots by “runners” who charged $100 for a group of 15 coins.

The indictment says one co-conspirator would act as a dispatcher taking calls and coordinating runners. Others would arrange for apartments to rent for the runners to live in and purchase vehicles for runners.

Additionally, they would create fake identification documents for the workers, including driver’s licenses, permanent resident alien cards and Social Security cards.

Co-conspirators would also register automobiles and license tags in false names or in the name of a U.S. citizen.

Defendants allegedly wired money on multiple occasions from storefronts in Columbus to Nayarit, Mexico.

“Special Agents with HSI and our local, state and federal partners have once again taken down a sophisticated international drug trafficking operation, suspected of untold harm in our community,” said Vance Callander, special agent in charge of HSI for Michigan and Ohio. “This organization went to great lengths to conceal their activities from law enforcement. However, today’s arrests demonstrate that HSI and our partners will be unyielding in our efforts to take down those who seek to profit from poisoning our community.”

According to the indictment, a group associated with the drug traffickers was involved in the business of creating fake identification documents.

This was for members of the drug trafficking group as well as members of the public who were purchasing driver’s licenses, lawful permanent resident cards and U.S. Social Security cards.

The business was called “Chilango’s Perfumes” and perfumes was allegedly used as a code word for fake documents. Customers allegedly paid $120 for a “full set” – a Social Security card and resident alien card.

Those charged include:

  1. Victor Daniel Torres-Lopez
  2. Diego Ernesto Castaneda-Garcia
  3. Angel Moises Castaneda-Garcia
  4. Jose Narciso Acuna-Zepeda
  5. Javier Eduardo Acuna-Zepeda
  6. Omar Fernando Chavez-Andrade
  7. Julia Martinez-Alvarez
  8. Jennifer Esmeralda Rodriguez-Martinez
  9. Tonie Michelle Rondrekia Scott
  10. Michael P. Uccello
  11. Serena Esclante
  12. Delander Edward Moore, Jr.
  13. Luis Enrique Diaz-Castillo
  14. Chaz A. Holland
  15. Tesla M. Yant
  16. Juan Manuel Alfaro-Alvarez
  17. Adriana Gabriela Salazar-Martinez
  18. Maria Esther Rosario

Conspiring to possess with intent to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin is a federal crime punishable by up to life prison.

Laundering and conspiring to launder money, conspiring to create and creating fraudulent identification documents are each crimes punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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