MCSO makes largest narcotics seizure in history during bust
For The Madera Tribune
Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue speaks at a news conference about the seizure of more than $3 million in narcotics after taking down the Beltran cartel.
Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue announced his department, in addition to many other agencies, seized more than $3 million in narcotics and have arrested 28 individuals as part of “Operation Trifecta.”
Pogue held a news conference Wednesday that the multi-agency task force seized 1,305 pounds of methamphetamine, worth more than $2.5 million. In addition, they seized 4 kilograms of heroin and 2 kilograms of fentanyl.
In other terms, the seizure of the meth means that 5 million doses of methamphetamine, 10,000 doses of heroin and 600,000 potentially fatal doses of fentanyl were taken off the streets.
“This was a culmination of a major investigation into the Ernesto Beltran organization,” Pogue said.
In addition, Operation Trifecta closed four labs that converted liquid methamphetamine into crystal methamphetamine, including one in Madera County.
“This is a monumental day for public safety in Madera County,” Pogue said. “The arrests made in this case, along with the close of several processing labs and seizure of substantial amounts of drugs from their operation, will undoubtedly make a significant impact on the safety of the residents of Madera County and the state of California.”
In addition to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, the Madera County District Attorney’s Office, Chowchilla Police Department, Madera County Probation Department, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Justice, Fresno Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Merced County Sheriff’s Office, Kings County Sheriff’s Office and the Turlock Police Department all participated in the seizures.
“This historical investigation should be a compelling indication to all of the relentless efforts we dedicate to taking a stand against drugs and the criminal activity they provoke in Madera County,” Pogue said.
Investigations began in July with the Madera Narcotic Enforcement Team, the High Intensity Investigation Team (HIIT) and the Fresno DEA (the Trifecta) with a joint investigation into the drug trafficking activities of Ernesto Beltran.
“Beltran has a long history of being a narcotics dealer and distributor,” Pogue said. “Our first contact with him was in 2015 when we seized seven pounds of meth. We’ve been looking at him for a while.”
During the investigation, detectives learned that Beltran was part of a large-scale, Mexican-based drug trafficking organization for the importation, manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine throughout the state of California and neighboring states.
Throughout the investigation, electronic intercepts were implemented to identify when drugs were being transported. Several traffic stops were orchestrated during the operation that resulted in the seizure of more than 230 pounds of methamphetamine.
The investigation also discovered a lab in Ducor that resulted in the seizure of 500 pounds of finished product and 500 pounds in liquid methamphetamine.
Beginning on October 26, search warrants were served in Madera, Fresno, Merced and Tulare counties. During the service of the warrants, investigators located three laboratories and made multiple arrests.
This case is the product of a joint investigation by the regional Madera Narcotic Enforcement Team (MADNET), comprised of detectives from the MCSO, Chowchilla PD, Madera County Probation, Madera Police Department and the CHP. They were assisted from officers from the HIIT and the Fresno DEA.
“We’ve charged 28 defendants,” said Sally Moreno, Madera County District Attorney. “A majority are in custody and a handful have been arraigned. They are looking at sentences of up to 35 years in prison.”
The arrests of the individuals associated with the organization have produced various felony and misdemeanor charges, including the transportation and sale of methamphetamine, manufacture of methamphetamine, child endangerment and the conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Bail amounts range from $500,000 to $10 million.
“These cartels are a growing menace in the valley attacking us pushing cheap drugs into our communities causing more and more of our young people to get addicted,” Moreno said. “This has been a great operation that has allowed us to tear this organization apart from its roots. We’ve taken this organization all the way down.
“Madera will stay firm in fighting drugs and keeping our children safe from these events.”