Granite City woman involved in drugs and money-laundering ring, feds say

A federal grand jury in East St. Louis Monday returned a seven-count indictment charging a Granite City woman and 10 others in a conspiracy to distribute large quantities of fentanyl, meth and cocaine in southern Illinois and across the country.

Carolina Lopez-Hinojosa, 39, is among an alleged drug conspiracy involved in an organized plan to distribute more than 400 grams of fentanyl, five kilograms of cocaine and 50 grams of methamphetamine from at least August 2022 to December 2023 in Madison and St. Clair counties.

Lopez-Hinojosa is among five who also are accused of conducting international money laundering by sending from Collinsville to Sinaloa, Mexico, in July 2023.

“Money laundering fuels drug trafficking as it enables criminals to manipulate our financial systems and hide the immense amount of harm their activities cause,” said Special Agent in Charge Thomas F. Murdock, St. Louis Field Office.

Those charged include:

  • Rogelio Martinez-Becerra, also known as “Rodrigo” or “Chaparro” (Shorty), 35, of St. Louis

  • Jose Manuel Garcia-Ramirez, also known as “Panzon” (Potbellied), 34, of Bakersfield, California

  • Ricardo Lopez, also known as “Ricardito”, 35, of St. Louis

  • Gustavo Torres-Yerena, also known as “Ojos verdes” (Green eyes), 60, of San Bernadino, California

  • Oscar Daniel Barajas-Lopez, also known as “Danny”, 21, of O’Fallon, Missouri

  • Jaime Barajas, 40, of O’Fallon, Missouri

  • Dary Axel Amaya-Gomez, also known as “Colombiano”, 31, of Bridgeton, Missouri

  • Deangelo Barnes, also known as “Lentes” (Glasses), 37, of Florissant, Missouri

  • David Howard, also known as “Siete” (Seven), 52, of Florissant, Missouri

  • Carolina Lopez-Hinojosa, also known as “La Morena”, 39, of Granite City

  • Monica Chavez, 26, of O’Fallon, Missouri.

Martinez-Becerra, Barajas-Lopez and Chavez face additional charges of distributing more than 50 grams of methamphetamine in Madison County in April 2023.

The indictment also charged Martinez-Becerra, Garcia-Ramirez, Barajas-Lopez, Amaya-Gomez, Barnes and Lopez-Hinojosa with international money laundering conspiracy for allegedly transferring funds from Illinois to Mexico to promote the drug trafficking enterprise.

Nine of the eleven indicted defendants have been arrested and are scheduled to stand trial at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis, according to a press release from the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Agents with DEA and IRS Criminal Investigation contributed to the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Quinley is prosecuting the case.