A federal grand jury returned a 13-count superseding indictment on Thursday against 12 Nuestra Familia gang members and associates, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

The individuals charged were originally charged in June, along with about 40 others, as part of a multi-agency investigation into the prison-based gang’s criminal activities. The superseding indictment adds three additional federal drug charges, including a charge for conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. 

The defendants are:

Salvador Castro Jr., 49, of Pleasant Valley State Prison; Raymond Jesse Marcos Lopez, 32, of Pleasant Valley State Prison; Jesse Juarez, 29, of Visalia; Daniel Juarez, 27, of Visalia’ Michael Rocha, 37, of Visalia; Angel Montes, 23, of Visalia; Rafael Lopez, 28, of Visalia; Manuel Barrera, 24, of Kettleman City; Manuel Garcia, 33, of Armona; Joann Bernal, 33, of Armona; Ramon Amador, 30, of Riverdale; and Raul Lopez Jr., 48, of Visalia.

According to court documents, high-ranking Nuestra Familia members Salvador Castro Jr. and Raymond Lopez used contraband cellphones from inside Fresno County’s Pleasant Valley State Prison to arrange the transport of illicit narcotics from drug sources in California and Mexico to a stash house in Kings County. From that stash house, gang members outside of the prison coordinated the preparation and delivery of the drugs to distributors throughout Kings and Tulare Counties.

The case was the result of an investigation by the Kings County Gang Task Force; the Special Operations Unit – a team of agents from the California Department of Justice and the California Highway Patrol; California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the FBI; and the Kings County District Attorney’s Office. The Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals Service; and Homeland Security Investigations all assisted with the arrests. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Sanchez, Laurel Montoya, and Justin Gilio are prosecuting the case.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. To learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods, go to www.justice.gov/psn.

This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. The OCDETF Program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.

If convicted, the defendants face a range of maximum sentences, including up to life in prison. Several of the defendants also face a range of mandatory-minimum sentences ranging from between five to 10 years in prison. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. 

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