Madera County deputies bust huge drug trafficking ring, 38 people involved

The year-long, multi-agency investigation led to the seizure of 14 firearms and more than $400,000 worth of drugs.
MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- 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.

"Based on an increase in criminal activity happening in La Vina, we initiated this investigation pretty much in response," he said.

At the center of it all is 47-year-old Juan Jimenez.

Officials say family and gang members helped Jimenez smuggle drugs from Mexico and distribute them throughout California.

"They actually were burying large quantities of drugs, which made it extremely difficult to conduct this investigation," Pogue said. "They went to great lengths to make sure that they were not discovered."

Operation Crystal Vine was launched in July of 2020 by the Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team.



After a nine-month investigation, on April 5, 12 search warrants led to 38 arrests, including Jimenez's wife and son.

"We basically decimated one gang," says Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno. "Arrested most of the members of that particular gang and then some of the dealers that we arrested are receiving drugs directly from larger cartel dealers."

Officials say over $400,000 in drugs were seized; 3400 fentanyl pills, 18 pounds of methamphetamine, two dozen pounds of marijuana and more than 3 pounds of heroin.
"This is the largest gang and narcotics operation of its kind led by our office in more than a decade," Pogue said.

Felony charges for those involved include conspiracy, distribution, firearm, and assault.

Moreno says while the arrests are good news for many impacted California cities, the impact will be deeply felt most deeply in La Vina.

"The vast majority of individuals came out of that community, so that community that was dealing with that surge of drug dealing, gangs, guns and violence will hopefully get respite from these arrests," she said.

Gang members who were arrested as a result of the operation will face additional gang enhancement charges.

Bail amounts for the suspects range from $100,000 to $5 million.
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