EVANSVILLE — Federal law enforcement officials on Tuesday announced the take down of a Mexican-based drug distribution network that was bringing massive amounts of methamphetamine and the powerful opiate fentanyl to the Evansville area.

U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Josh Minkler said the lengthy operation removed more than 123 pounds of methamphetamine worth about $5.5 million that was intended for sale in Southwestern Indiana.

Also seized during the course of the operation were 769 grams of fentanyl powder, 114 fentanyl pills, 345 grams of heroin and 500 oxycodone pills — some laced with fentanyl.

Enough meth was seized to supply a full crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium, Minkler said, and the powdered fentanyl alone was equal to about 384,500 fatal doses.

Nine people, indicted by a federal grand jury in July, have been arrested so far. All are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine and fentanyl.

The organization’s two leaders, who were also indicted, remain at large in Mexico. They were identified as Rudolfo “Rudy” Ibarra-Hernandez, 48, and Juan “Hollywood” Guzman, 33.

“We will go to Mexico and we will arrest them,” Minkler said.

The two are alleged to have run the operation from Tijuana, Mexico, he said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency will seek provisional warrants to arrest and extradict them to the United States for trial, said Michael Gannon, the DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge, who worked on the case.

All of the defendants will be prosecuted in the Southern District of Indiana, Minkler said. They face penalties that range from 10-years to life in prison.

Arrested were:

  • Juan Tellez, 44, Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Alexus Ortiz, 21, Clarksville, Tenn.
  • Rayvin Yates, 26, Dayton, Ohio
  • Cesar Castro, 45, San Diego
  • Jovanny Contreas-Vazquez, 30, Los Angelas
  • Ruby Hernandez, 37, Federal Way, Wash.
  • Tania Gervacio, 30, El Cajon, Calif.
  • Angelique McCleary, 31, Carlsbad, Calif.

The operation worked by obtaining drugs in Mexico and bringing them to the area by couriers using motor vehicles and commercial airlines, as well as through the United States Postal Service and Federal Express, Minkler said.

Gannon said investigators had information connecting the drug distribution network to the Cartel Jalisco New Generation (CJNG), a well known Mexican drug cartel.

The painstaking 18-month investigation involved numerous undercover operations and seizures across seven DEA field divisions and two international offices, Gannon said.

“It just doesn’t happen without collaborative efforts,” Gannon said.

He said detectives of the Evansville Vanderburgh County Joint Task Force investigated with the DEA, along with agents from Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Marshals and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin praised the working relationship between local and federal law enforcement.

“The partnerships we have are truly amazing,” he said. “Our guys on the ground, specifically the Evansville Police Department detectives, are some of the best detectives in the country.”

In July, Vanderburgh County was designated a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, allowing local law enforcement to tap into federal funds to combat the flow of illicit drugs.

Minkler distinguished the plight of individual drug users from those of drug traffickers.

“This is not about drug addicts. This is about individuals selling drugs to make money, feeding off those addictions,” he said. “If you are addicted to drugs, we want you to get help.”

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