19 Charged in Connection to Southern California Drug Trafficking Organization

Department of Justice indictments against an accused drug trafficking organization operating out of Southern California were unsealed Tuesday, revealing a vast criminal network which allegedly moved millions of dollars worth of drugs from California to Canada.

According to a Department of Justice press release, the criminal network they targeted was responsible for trafficking hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine from Mexico into Los Angeles where they loaded it onto semi-trucks bound for Canada or other parts of the United States. 

Various law enforcement organizations executed arrests and search warrants in Los Angeles; Sacramento, California; Miami; Odessa, Texas; Montreal; Toronto; and Calgary, Canada Tuesday morning with 30 search warrants served in Los Angeles alone. “Operation Dead Hand” as it was so dubbed by the feds was responsible for ten arrests in multiple cities across the United States and Canada.

“Today’s charges and arrests across North America reflect the Justice Department’s close coordination with our Mexican and Canadian partners to disrupt international narcotics trafficking,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “These cases provide yet another example of how our agents and prosecutors work side-by-side to uncover and dismantle organized criminal networks peddling and profiting from deadly drugs.”

The many defendants charged in the two unsealed indictments are as follows:

  • Jesus Ruiz Sandoval Jr., 45, of Guadalajara, Mexico;
  • John Joe Soto, 42, of Guadalajara;
  • Eduardo Carvajal, 50, of Guadalajara;
  • Roberto Scoppa, 55, of Montreal;
  • Ayush Sharma, 25, of Brampton, Canada;
  • Subham Kumar, 29, of Calgary, Canada;
  • Carlos Barragan, 51, of Long Beach, California;
  • Corell Carbajal Garcia, 38, of Hemet, California;
  • Humberto Luis Bermejo, 26, of Odessa, Texas; and
  • Esteban Sinhue Mercado, 24, of San Jacinto, California.
  • Guramrit Sidhu, 60, of Brampton, Canada;
  • Ivan Gravel Gonzalez, 32, a resident of both the Dominican Republic and Montreal;
  • Daniel Antonio Trejo Huerta, 43, of Riverside, California;
  • Ignacio Lopez, 53, a resident of Santa Ana, California;
  • Daniel Joseph Alan Herrera, 27, of Miami;
  • Orlando Velasco Jr., 29, of Stanton, California;
  • Angel Larry Sandoval, 32, of Bell Gardens, California;
  • Jorge Pina Nicols, 22, of Long Beach, California; and
  • Bryan Ureta Valenzuela, 24, of Ontario, California.

A notable name from that list is Robert Scoppa, whom the Department of Justice described as an alleged Canadian drug trafficker believed to be moving massive amounts of drugs on a regular basis with close ties to an Italian organized crime family. The other defendants were generally alleged to either be associated with Mexican crime groups involved in moving product over the southern border or handlers and dispatchers involved with a complex network of semi-truck drivers who made frequent border crossings into Canada via the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, the Buffalo Peace Bridge and the Blue Water Bridge. 

“Drug trafficking is a global problem being driven by sophisticated, organized crime groups who put profits over people’s lives,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California. “Motivated by greed, these criminals destroy lives, devastate families, and wreak havoc in our community. But this case shows that we will collaborate with our international partners to bring these criminal networks to justice. Those who traffic in highly addictive and dangerous drugs will be held accountable.”

Of the list of those indicted, 10 were arrested Tuesday, two were already in police custody and seven are considered to be fugitives. Those seven are as follows: 

  • Angel Larry Sandoval
  • Corell Garcia
  • Eduardo Carvajal
  • Esteban Sinhue Mercado
  • John Soto
  • Bryan Valenzuela
  • Jesus Ruiz, Jr.

All those indicted face maximum penalties ranging from 40 years to life in prison. This organization has been accused of trafficking up to 845 kilograms of methamphetamine, 951 kilograms of cocaine, 20 kilograms of fentanyl, and 4 kilograms of heroin. The wholesale value of these drugs was estimated by the Department of Justice to be between $16-28 million and around $900,000 in cash was seized during this operation. 

“Until today, the organized members of this conspiracy operated with impunity throughout the many thousands of miles that comprise the North American continent, poisoning communities along the way,” said Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office. “The strength of this partnership cannot be overstated. The agents and detectives on this case did an outstanding job of pooling resources and worked seamlessly across borders toward a mutual goal of putting this massive drug pipeline out of business.”

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