Authorities shatter California drug trafficking ring based in small Madera farming community

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LA VINA, California. (KSEE) – More than $400,000 worth of illegal drugs are off the streets in Madera County, the Sheriff’s Office announced Monday. 

It’s the result of a nearly year-long investigation into a drug trafficking ring based in the small farming community of La Vina, outside of Madera.

The investigation, named “Operation Crystal Vine” was responsible for distributing drugs across the county and the state, authorities said.

“This a tremendous day for public safety in Madera county,” said Sheriff Tyson Pogue.

Sheriff Pogue said the investigation began in July 2020 following a rise in crime in La Vina and led investigators to identify the suspected ring leader of the operation, a man named Juan Jimenez.

“Detectives learned that Juan Jimenez was procuring narcotics from Mexico and distributing throughout the state of California,” said Sheriff Pogue.

Sheriff Pogue said Jimenez’s wife, Maria Hidalgo, and their son Alexis Jimenez helped lead the investigation using gang members to distribute drugs across the state. 

“Investigators believe this group went to great lengths to conceal the narcotics they were trafficking. This included burying large quantities of the drugs and the guns,” said Sheriff Pogue.

During a search warrant at the family’s La Vina home, investigators said they found water coolers buried in the ground, being used to store guns and drugs. 

As of Monday, 38 people have been arrested in connection to the operation. Authorities confiscated 14 firearms, 18 lbs. of meth, 60 grams of cocaine, 3.7 pounds of heroin, 24.8 lbs. of marijuana, and 3,400 fentanyl pills. 

Juan Jimenez is accused of running a drug trafficking ring with help from his wife, Maria Hidalgo, and son, Alexis “Nessy” Jimenez.

“This is the largest investigation of this type we have done in over a decade,” said Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno.

Moreno said her office filed a motion to require the suspects to prove bail money was obtained legally. Based on the charges, she doubts any will make bail soon, hopefully leading to swifter justice.

“To have this size of a drug ring in their area can’t help but contribute to a criminal atmosphere so I’m very glad for this community that these people have all been removed and La Vina can return to being the wonderful little community it has always been,” said Moreno.

The suspects are facing anywhere between more than $100,000 to $5,000,000 bail. The Sheriff’s Office said more arrests could be coming and thanks to the partnering agencies across the county and state who helped in the operation. 

14 firearms were also said to have been recovered during the operation.

Those arrested during Operation Crystal Vine include:

  • Petra Teresa Anaya, 32, Chowchilla
  • Ralissa Janelle Huizar, 28, Madera
  • Ramon Loza Chavez, 36 Madera
  • John Anthony Chavarria, 33, Madera
  • Jose Manuel Sanchez, 39, Madera
  • Jose Manzano, 40, Madera
  • Rodrigo Delfonso Martinez, 29, Madera
  • Alejandro Gomez Frias, 26, Fresno
  • Oscar Tista-Herrera, 27, Madera
  • Oscar Arredondo, 39, Sanger
  • Francisco Camarillo, 29, Madera
  • Juan Jimenez, 47, Madera
  • Simon Garcia, 62, Madera
  • Eulises Romero Soto, 29, Madera
  • Aaron Matthew Campos, 40, Paso Robles
  • Rafael Nunez, 26, Le Grand
  • Oscar Aguayo, 30, Madera
  • Michael Jimenez, 32, Chowchilla
  • Issa Lidia Silva, 21, San Bernadino
  • Higinio Montes, 24, Calexico
  • Bartolo Salinas, 46, Madera
  • Paula Ramirez, 35, Fresno
  • Suzanne Marie Barajas, 34, Madera
  • Ruben Frias, 57, Fresno
  • Alexis Jimenez, 24, Madera
  • Maria Hidalgo, 48, Madera
  • Mario Hernandez Ortega, 54, Madera

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July 23 2021 05:30 pm

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