Drug trafficking investigation yields seizures, 38 arrests
For The Madera Tribune
Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue speaks about a combined-effort drug bust that yielded 38 arrests and more than $400,000 worth of illegal drugs at a press conference Monday..
In July of 2020, the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team launched an investigation into a drug trafficking ring led by Juan Jimenez, operating primarily in the La Vina community of Madera County, and it led to the arrest of 38 individuals, in addition to seizure of various illegal drugs.
“This is a tremendous day for public safety in Madera County,” said Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue. “The substantial seizure of drugs and firearms will no doubt make a significant impact to the safety of our community. We are thankful for the collaboration between our allied agencies to successfully navigate and conclude this investigation. This operation would not have yielded such positive results without the teamwork among the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, Madera Police Department, Chowchilla Police Department, Madera County Probation, the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Justice, and the Madera County District Attorney’s Office. Let this be an unmistakable reminder to all that we take a strong stand against drugs, gangs, and the criminal activity they provoke, in Madera County.”
During the course of the investigation, detectives learned Jimenez was both acquiring and distributing methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine throughout various locations within California. Additionally, they discovered Jimenez was procuring methamphetamine from Mexico.
The investigation revealed that Jimenez’s wife (Maria Hidalgo), and son (Alexis “Nessy” Jimenez) were integral parts of the operation. Nessy Jimenez is a documented gang member who has a violent history which includes assault with a firearm.
Detectives learned that Juan Jimenez used various gang members to distribute guns and drugs throughout the County of Madera, as well as the State of California.
“This drug trafficking ring went to extreme lengths to conceal their activities and widen the scope of their influence throughout the state of California and Mexico,” Pogue said. “Removing the key players and diminishing the supply of this organization will minimize their ability to function, and maintain safety within our community.”
Throughout the investigation, electronic intercepts were implemented to identify when drugs were being transported. Nearly a dozen traffic stops were orchestrated during the operation, yielding the seizure of sizable amounts of various drugs. In a separate notable incident, undercover detectives successfully seized 3,400 fentanyl pills. Several incidents of violent assaults were identified as being committed by members of the group, and yielded various arrests.
Beginning on April 5, 12 search warrants were served in Madera and Fresno Counties. During service of the warrant at Jimenez’s residence in the area of Avenue 11 and Road 23, in LaVina, detectives located numerous insulated water coolers, believed to be used to conceal large quantities of drugs and guns, that had been buried on the property. As of Monday, detectives have made 38 arrests related to crimes uncovered during this investigation.
This case is the product of a joint investigation by the regional Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team (MADNET), comprised of detectives from the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, Madera Police Department, Chowchilla Police Department, Madera County Probation, Madera County District Attorney’s Office, and the California Highway Patrol, assisted by officers from the California Department of Justice (DOJ), and the High Impact Investigation Team (HIIT).
“This is the largest gang and narcotics operation of its kind led by our office and the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team in Madera County in over a decade,” Pogue said. “The dedication of the detectives in this case has significantly diminished the ability to purchase and sell drugs in this county.”
To date, the operation has resulted in the seizure of over 18 pounds of methamphetamine, over 60 grams of cocaine, 3.7 pounds of heroin, nearly 25 pounds of marijuana, 64 grams of concentrated cannabis, and 3,400 fentanyl pills. In addition, 14 firearms have also been recovered.
The 38 arrests of individuals associated with the organization have produced various felony and misdemeanor charges, including conspiracy, distribution of controlled substances, firearms offenses, and assault charges. Bail amounts range from $5 million to over $100,000.
Classified as “Operation Crystal Vine,” this is the largest gang and narcotics investigation of its kind conducted by the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team in Madera County in over a decade.
The leaders of the drug tracking organization, Juan Jimenez (47), Maria Hidalgo (48), and Alexis Jimenez (24), have all been arrested for the following felony charges:
• 3 counts each of Conspiracy
• 1 count of Transportation/Sales of Methamphetamine, with an Enhancement for 20+ Kilograms, and an additional Gang Enhancement
• 1 count of Transportation/Sales of Heroin, with an Enhancement for 1+ Kilograms, and an additional Gang Enhancement
• 1 count of Transportation/Sales of Cocaine, with a Gang Enhancement
Juan Jimenez is also being charged with additional felony counts of Being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Committing a Felony While Released on Bail.
“The Madera County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to removing illegal firearms and drugs off of the streets of our community,” Pogue said. “We are dedicated to protecting those we serve, and will continue to make strides to ensure the safety of our citizens.”
The individuals below have all been identified as members or associates of the drug trafficking ring operating out of the La Vina area. They have each been charged with crime(s) related to their role in the operation.
Petra Teresa Anaya, 32, Chowchilla
Ralissa Janelle Huizar, 28, Madera
Ramon Loza Chavez, 36 Madera
John Anthony Chavarria, 33, Madera
Jose Manuel Sanchez, 39, Madera
Jose Manzano, 40, Madera
Rodrigo Delfonso Martinez, 29, Madera
Alejandro Gomez Frias, 26, Fresno
Oscar Tista-Herrera, 27, Madera
Oscar Arredondo, 39, Sanger
Francisco Camarillo, 29, Madera
Juan Jimenez, 47, Madera
Simon Garcia, 62, Madera
Eulises Romero Soto, 29, Madera
Aaron Matthew Campos, 40, Paso Robles
Rafael Nunez, 26, Le Grand
Oscar Aguayo, 30, Madera
Michael Jimenez, 32, Chowchilla
Issa Lidia Silva, 21, San Bernadino
Higinio Montes, 24, Calexico
Bartolo Salinas, 46, Madera
Paula Ramirez, 35, Fresno
Suzanne Marie Barajas, 34, Madera
Ruben Frias, 57, Fresno
Alexis Jimenez, 24, Madera
Maria Hidalgo, 48, Madera
Mario Hernandez Ortega, 54, Madera
Operation Crystal Vine Overview
Drugs Seized + Approximate Street Value
Methamphetamine: 8,165.5 grams (18.002 pounds), $244,965;
Cocaine: 60.1 grams, $3,606;
Heroin: 1676.9 grams (3.7 pounds), $134,152;
Marijuana: 11,261.0 grams (24.8 pounds), $20,000;
Concentrated Cannabis: 64 grams, $1,600;
Fentanyl Pills: 3,400 pills, $17,000;
Total Estimated Value: $421,323
Asset Forfeiture: $64,874