Madera Co. deputies bust huge drug trafficking ring

The sheriff's office says this was the largest gang and narcotics investigation of its kind in Madera County in over a decade.

Video Transcript

- New tonight, dozens of arrests have been made in Madera County where the Sheriff's office has been at work for over a year to take down a drug ring centered around the community of La Vina. Action News reporter Alyssa Flores is live in Madera County tonight where officials now say operation Crystal Vine is not complete. Alyssa.

ALYSSA FLORES: Yeah, Warren, that's right there have already been 38 arrests made in connection to this operation, which is significant in itself but the Madera County Sheriff tells us that they are not done making arrests with suspects and players of this operation that are still at large.

The streets are safer in La Vina after deputies busted a drug ring that Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue says plagued the community with crime.

TYSON POGUE: Based on an increase in criminal activity in La Vina, we initiated this investigation pretty much in response to the increased criminal activity.

ALYSSA FLORES: At the center of it all, 47-year-old Juan Jimenez. Officials say family and gang members helped Jimenez smuggle drugs from Mexico and distribute them throughout California.

TYSON POGUE: They actually were burying large quantities of drugs that made it extremely difficult to conduct this investigation. They went to great lengths to make sure that they were not discovered.

ALYSSA FLORES: Operation Crystal Vine was launched in July of 2020 by the Madera County narcotic enforcement team. After a nine month investigation, on April 5th, 12 search warrants led to 38 arrests including Jimenez's wife and son.

SALLY MORENO: We have basically decimated one gang, arrested most of the members of that particular gang, and then some of the dealers that we arrested are, in fact, receiving drugs directly from larger cartel dealers.

ALYSSA FLORES: Investigators say over $400,000 in drugs were seized. 3,400 fentanyl pills, 18 pounds of methamphetamine, two pounds of marijuana, and more than three pounds of heroin.

TYSON POGUE: This is the largest gang and narcotics operation of its kind led by our office in the Madera County narcotics enforcement team in Madera County in more than a decade.

ALYSSA FLORES: Madera County District attorney Sally Moreno says while the arrests are good news for many California cities, the impact will be felt most in La Vina.

SALLY MORENO: That community that was dealing with this scourge of drug dealing and gangs and guns and violence, will hopefully get respite from these arrests.

ALYSSA FLORES: Now, officials do tell us that gang members who were arrested as a result of this operation will face gang enhancements which could mean more years behind bars, bail amounts were set anywhere from $100,000 to $5 million. In Madera County, Alyssa Flores, ABC 30 Action News.