Investigators seize multiple weapons in bust of Bay Area heroin trafficking ring

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Twelve suspects were taken into custody Tuesday in the culmination of a long-term probe targeting a Bay Area-based heroin trafficking ring by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the California Department of Justice-led South Bay Metro Task Force.

In addition to the arrests, state and federal investigators seized nine guns and small amounts of marijuana and methamphetamine during Tuesday's enforcement action.

The execution of the search and arrest warrants is the latest development in a 2 ½ year investigation dubbed "Operation Middle Man" because the initial targets identified in the case were found to be mid-level operatives in the overall scheme. These individuals ultimately led authorities to Carlos Jose Moreno, the alleged head of a transnational criminal organization involved in the distribution of heroin and methamphetamine in the communities of San Jose, East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Redwood City. Investigators suspect the ring is made up of Norteño gang members with ties to Mexico.

"Transnational gangs have become a top public safety threat as they increasingly traffic guns, drugs and human beings into California," said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. "I commend the members of the South Bay Metro Task Force and Homeland Security Investigations for their work in identifying and arresting these gang-affiliated suspects."

Operation Middle Man, which began in December 2009, was initiated to disrupt and dismantle the Santa Clara County-based drug trafficking organization and to arrest and prosecute its members. HSI and the South Bay Metro Task Force received substantial assistance with the case from the Santa Clara District Attorney's Office and the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force.

"By combining our resources, authorities and expertise, we've succeeded in dismantling a drug ring suspected of funneling significant quantities of heroin into the Bay Area and onto our streets," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. "This case shows yet again why federal and state collaboration is crucial to promoting public safety and protecting the welfare of our communities."

Utilizing undercover and other investigative techniques, officers purchased more than three pounds of heroin during the course of the investigation. The probe revealed the ring, which obtained narcotics from both international and domestic sources, redistributed the drugs throughout California and the United States. The heroin was imported from Mexico, while the crystal methamphetamine was manufactured in California's Central Valley.

"This multi-jurisdictional investigation is one example of our successful efforts to dismantle violent drug trafficking organizations that threaten our community," said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey F. Rosen.

During Tuesday's operation, officers served 12 state arrest warrants and six state search warrants in the communities of East Palo Alto, Hayward and Oakland.

Those arrested during Tuesday's operation will be booked into the Santa Clara County Jail. They face state charges ranging from conspiracy, residential burglary, firearms sales, sale of methamphetamine and heroin, and gang enhancements. They are:

Carlos Moreno, 28, of Palo Alto;
Jose Izabel Moreno, 26, of Palo Alto;
Pearl Moreno, 27, of Palo Alto;
Johnny Chavez, 21, of Palo Alto;
Pedro Chavez Chavez, 36, of Mexico;
Jose Arreguin, 21, of Palo Alto;
Daniel Macias, 23, of Mexico;
Jose Macias, 25, of Palo Alto;
Elizabeth Kovac, 23, of Palo Alto;
Joventino Lopez-Ortiz, 18, of Palo Alto;
Victor Hernandez, 23, of Palo Alto; and
Edgar Enrique Bustos, 18, of Palo Alto.