Tulare County-based drug smuggling ring busted

DINUBA, Calif.

California's attorney general came to Fresno on Monday to announce the end of a year-long investigation into a multi-national drug operation, with ties to Mexican drug cartels and California prison gangs. Eleven people were arrested, including suspected kingpin Jose Magana.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said the investigation began last summer when law enforcement officials suspected Magana, 33, of marijuana trafficking. Magana lived in Dinuba. Harris said law enforcement officers later learned his organization allegedly had a drug-distributing business stretching more than 3,000 miles and was raking in large amounts of cash.

Harris said the group worked with street gangs associated with the Nuestra Familia prison gang to smuggle methamphetamine and cocaine through San Diego to the Central Valley, and then distribute it to states like Arkansas, Illinois and New York.

Five people -- including Magana, Manuel Munoz, Juan Parra, John Dewayne Young and Magana's alleged girlfriend Ana Valero -- were arrested in Tulare County over a four-month period. Four others were arrested last month in Riverside County. The nine are now being held in the Tulare County Jail and face charges of transportation and sale of a controlled substance, and prohibited possession of ammunition. Two others were arrested in Arkansas.

During the arrests, authorities seized 56 pounds of meth, four kilograms of cocaine, and nearly 950 marijuana plants. They also discovered about $270,000 in cash.

"This is about doing the investigative work to go through the various layers of an otherwise highly-sophisticated, intricate organization so that we can get the top guys, and I'm proud to say that in this case we got the top guy of this organization," said Harris.

Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Dan Underwood said nine of the 11 he's prosecuting pleaded not guilty. Two defendants are charged in federal court.

On Monday, Harris used the occasion to call on legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown to restore part of the $71 million cut from her budget for such anti-drug efforts. She said she'd start by asking for $7.5 million to deploy more drug task forces, much like the one in this case which made the bust possible.

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