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United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California

10/19/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/19/2021 15:34

Eight Defendants Charged In Tenderloin-Based Drug Trafficking Conspiracy

SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Attorney's Office has charged eight defendants with conspiracy, each in connection with the activities of one of two drug trafficking organizations that are alleged to have supplied the Tenderloin district of San Francisco with copious amounts of narcotics, including several varieties of fentanyl, announced Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Wade D. Shannon, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge, San Francisco Field Division, Patrick Gorman. The charges were made in two complaints, both filed October 14, 2021, and unsealed hours ago, that provide details of the large-scale drug distribution conspiracies.

The complaints signal the continued commitment of the Office of the United States Attorney to coordinate efforts of federal and local law enforcement to deal with the endemic drug dealing in the Tenderloin District.

"The disturbing upward trend of organized fentanyl sales in our cities is a triple threat: fentanyl is deadly, its organized trade attracts violent offenders, and its sales and use devastates neighborhoods," said Acting U.S. Attorney Hinds. Our prosecutions target those who seek to turn our city streets into open fentanyl marketplaces."

"Fentanyl, regardless of color, can be lethal in the smallest amounts. Whether it is pink, blue, green, purple, red, or silver, it all can be fatal. Marketing gimmicks, such as changing the color, are not uncommon, but nevertheless can be dangerous," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shannon. "As overdoses continue to plague the Tenderloin, so will our efforts to investigate those who supply the region with deadly drugs."

"Through the collaboration of local, state, and federal agencies, law enforcement works diligently to remove key distributors of narcotics from our communities," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Gorman. "Throughout this case, ATF has worked side by side with our partners at DEA & the San Francisco Police Department to fulfill one of our core duties to the public. That duty being to ensure the safety of the public. ATF will continue to work hard every day alongside our partners to honor our pledge to this city."

"The staggering loss of life we've seen due to drug overdoses is a public health calamity San Franciscans haven't witnessed since the height of the AIDS crisis," said Chief of Police Bill Scott. "Our street drug trade has been nearly twice as deadly as COVID-19 in San Francisco. While the primary chemical culprit is fentanyl, drug-related gun violence is beginning to take an increasingly troubling toll. We are incredibly thankful to Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds; DEA Special Agent in Charge Wade D. Shannon; ATF Special Agent in Charge Patrick Gorman and their enormously dedicated investigators and prosecutors who've been our full partners in this operation."

The first complaint describes a conspiracy allegedly headed by Luis Ochoa, 24, of Alameda, and his brother Roger Arteaga, 28, of Berkeley. The complaint alleges that since at least May of 2021, Ochoa, Arteaga , and three co-conspirators participated in a drug trafficking organization whose members distribute primarily fentanyl. The name of one of the co-conspirators has been redacted from court papers.

According to the complaint, the defendants supplied narcotics for resale to multiple local narcotics re-distributors. Some of the co-conspirators also allegedly engaged in street-level drug sales. The complaint describes several cell phone conversations intercepted by wiretaps in which Ochoa allegedly is heard receiving orders for drugs and arranging to have the drugs delivered to customers.

The complaint also describes a branding scheme by which the organization sought to sell fentanyl to customers by colors, each color reflecting a type of fentanyl that either burns a particular color or has been dyed a particular color. Intercepted communications described in the complaint reveal the large array of colors or types of fentanyl that the organization allegedly sold, including fentanyl that burns or has been colored blue, yellow, pink, green, purple, red, and silver. The complaint describes how members of the organization colored some of the fentanyl themselves using different dyes.

The complaint also describes the large quantities of fentanyl sold by the organization. A single seizure by law enforcement resulted in the recovery of approximately one kilogram of fentanyl, a quantity with the potential to create 500,000 lethal doses of the drug. Among the items seized at the time of Ochoa's arrest was four pounds (about 1.8 kilograms) of fentanyl.

The second complaint describes a separate drug-distribution organization led by Fernando Viera, 27, of Oakland. According to the complaint, Viera is a mid-level drug trafficker in the Bay Area who allegedly supplied drugs to multiple resellers and street-level dealers. The street-level dealers, in turn, sold the drugs in the Tenderloin. The complaint describes several transactions indicating that in addition to fentanyl, numerous other drugs continue to be sold in the Tenderloin. For example, a recent seizure by law enforcement from one co-conspirator recovered more than 250 grams of fentanyl, as well as ounce quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base.

According to both complaints, the investigation of these drug distribution organizations took over a year and involved law enforcement resources of the DEA, the ATF, and the San Francisco Police Department.

In sum, the defendants in the two cases include the following:

OCHOA COMPLAINT

Defendant

Aliases

Age

Luis Ochoa

Luis Valle

Luis Castro-Valle

Panda

24

Roger Arteaga

Jorge Miguel Casco-Raudales

Alfredo Zuniga

Rorro

28

Rosales Avila

Jamileth Avila

29

Jose Aguilar

Joe Aguilar Estrada

Danny

22

VIERA COMPLAINT

Defendant

Aliases

Age

Fernando Viera

Oscar F Viera

Oscar Fernando Viera Rodriguez

Tata

27

Edgardo Aguilar-Cruz

Jose

22

Nelson Casteneda

42

Nolan Ramos

Nelson Ramos

26

The complaint contains allegations only and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

All defendants are charged with engaging in a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1)(C) and 846. If convicted, each defendant faces a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $1,000,000, and between 3 years and a lifetime term of supervised release. Further, additional fines, forfeitures, and restitution may be ordered; however, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

The defendants made the following appearances and are next scheduled to appear as follows:

OCHOA COMPLAINT

Defendant

Initial Appearance

Next Appearance

Luis Ochoa

October 15, 2021

October 20, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. for detention hearing

Roger Arteaga

October 15, 2021

October 20, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. for detention hearing

Rosales Avila

Pending Arrest

--

Jose Aguilar

Pending Arrest

--

VIERA COMPLAINT

Defendant

Initial Appearance

Next Appearance

Fernando Viera

October 15, 2021

October 25, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. for detention hearing

Edgardo Aguilar-Cruz

October 15, 2021

October 22, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. for detention hearing

Nelson Casteneda

Pending Transfer to Federal Custody

--

Nolan Ramos

--

October 19, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. for initial appearance and arraignment

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sailaja Paidipaty, Kristina Green, Sloan Heffron, and Kenneth Chambers are prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the DEA, ATF, and San Francisco Police Department.

This investigation and prosecution are part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force ("OCDETF"), which 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.