39 Charged in Probe Targeting Gang-Led Meth & Firearms Trafficking Rings

Thirty-nine gang members and known gang associates have been indicted on federal drug and firearms charges for their role in a methamphetamine and gun trafficking network that operated in San Diego’s Mid-City neighborhoods.

The criminal charges are the result of a yearlong investigation spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the San Diego Police Department, in close collaboration with the U.S. Marshals Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego (Image Credit: John Gastaldo)
Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego (Image Credit: John Gastaldo)

“Homeland Security Investigations is committed to working jointly with its law enforcement partners to dismantle gang-run criminal networks that distribute narcotics on the streets and spread violence in our communities,” said Dave Shaw, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego.

“As part of this joint investigation, our agents continue to fight against crime to keep our communities safe.”

Twenty two of the defendants, including many members and associates of violent San Diego street gangs, were taken into custody during a two-day operation April 25 and 26.

As part of that enforcement action, federal agents executed nine search warrants and made one consensual search, resulting in the seizure of more than three pounds of methamphetamine, approximately 20 grams of cocaine, 17 firearms, and over 3,000 rounds of ammunition. 

Additionally, agents seized more than $25,000 in illicit proceeds from narcotic sales.

(Learn More about ICE’s HSI National Gang Unit – Operation Community Shield. Courtesy of ICE and YouTube)

If convicted of the drug charges, the defendants face a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $10 million fine. The firearms charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to court records, HSI special agents initiated the investigation while targeting a prolific methamphetamine distribution network headed by Oriental Mafia Crips gang member Soulidao Chounlaboudy, aka “Lazy.”

The probe also identified Ruben Contreras-Ramirez, aka “Tjuas,” a member of the Clairemont 13 gang, who is accused of distributing firearms and manufacturing assault-style, semi-automatic weapons.

During the probe, investigators uncovered a second methamphetamine and crack cocaine distribution network headed by West Coast Crips gang member John Quarles, aka “J-Money.”

Agents say this ring was responsible for distributing dozens of pounds of methamphetamine on the streets, which generated tens of thousands of dollars in illicit proceeds.

(Learn More about ICE HSI Criminal Investigators. Courtesy of ForcedRush and YouTube)

The ring used an array of distributors, many of whom were convicted drug dealers and gang members, to deal the methamphetamine and cocaine from the gang’s headquarters at Teralta Park in City Heights.

Since its inception, HSI’s national gang initiative known as Operation Community Shield has resulted in over 40,000 arrests, including more than 550 known and suspected gang leaders.

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Additionally the initiative has yielded the seizure of nearly $100 million worth of real estate, automobiles, narcotics, firearms and cash.

To report suspicious activity, call ICE’s 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1-866-347-2423 or visit www.ice.gov.