Central Valley drug ring dismantled in nationwide effort

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announces dismantlement of major drug operation; arrests made in Tulare, Fresno and Kings County

By Derek Fleming
Published March 16, 2024  • 
10:00 am
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux briefs the media and outlines the success of the multi-agency drug bust. (Kenny Goodman)
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux briefs the media and outlines the success of the multi-agency drug bust. (Kenny Goodman)

VISALIA –  A nine-month investigation resulted in a massive early morning drug bust on Thursday against a long-standing operation with ties to the Sinaloa cartel.

Announced on March 14, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said the bust “dismantled” the operation. He said that over the course of the investigation, authorities had seized nearly 1,000 lbs of methamphetamine, 6.5 kilos of cocaine, 64,000 fentanyl pills and 81 firearms. A total of 85 arrests were made.

“The men and women arrested this morning have been a menace to our society,” Boudreaux said. “They have been operating in our neighborhoods, endangering the safety of the people who live here. This is a direct result of drugs freely flowing up and down the Central Valley and across our open and unsecured border.”

According to the announcement, the bust occurred early in the morning, at 7 a.m., on March 14. Twenty-one tactical teams served 31 simultaneous search warrants, resulting in 35 arrests. The bulk of the arrests were within the city limits of Tulare, but additional arrests were also made in Tulare, Kings and Fresno County. Investigators seized 214 lbs of methamphetamine, 3.5 kilos of cocaine, five shotguns, 15 handguns, seven rifles and a bulletproof vest.

“There is a difference between disrupting a drug trafficking operation and dismantling,” Boudreaux said. “This investigation dismantled, completely dismantled, this drug operating cell. It didn’t get rid of cartels operating in the Central Valley, but this cell was completely dismantled.”

The investigation began last year with a tip from law enforcement in San Luis Obispo. The tip led to an operation involving federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that eventually required nearly 5,000 man-hours.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Phil Talbert said that a total of 28 individuals are being charged with federal crimes as a result of the investigation. 

“Our complaints charge the defendants, including the Mexican-based source of supply for the drugs sent to the Central Valley for distribution…with either conspiring to distribute or possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and other drugs, and/or other firearms offenses,” Talbert said. 

He explained that law enforcement used a confidential source to infiltrate the organization and purchase drugs. This allowed agents to gain wiretaps on the suspects which directly led to huge seizures of drugs, guns and cash. Talbert explained that wiretap investigations are time-consuming and laborious because agents must monitor phones in real-time. 

“I can’t emphasize enough, this case is an excellent example of what we can do in law enforcement when we work together,” Talbert said. “I have said many times that enforcement alone is not going to stop our nation’s drug crisis, but enforcement is a necessary component, along with prevention, awareness and treatment, for us to deal with methamphetamine, fentanyl and other drugs that our country is having such a hard time dealing with right now.”

DEA Special Agent Brian Clark said the investigation required “old fashion police work” and collaboration between agencies. 

“Agents were able to infiltrate a well-known and long-standing drug trafficking organization operating throughout Tulare, Kings, Fresno and San Luis Obispo Counties,” Clark said. “Our investigation revealed the network, led by Alfonso Ortiz and assisted by his sister, Angelica Flores, was supplied with hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine, on credit, from a Mexico-based supplier identified as Alberto Alvarado.”

Clark said the investigation was able to determine numerous details about the operation that included the size of shipments, the locations where shipments were destined and even the amount of money Ortiz was paying. 

Boudreaux expressed frustration with lax federal policies and local laws he sees as enabling the drug trafficking operation.

“We need a strong and secure border or we will continue to see cases just like this one where people’s lives are in jeopardy,” Boudreaux said. “We can’t afford it any longer. It is time for America and the state of California to wake up because deadly fentanyl and drugs are coming across our border, our children, lives, are in jeopardy. There will be another case like this. Then one after that if we don’t start taking things seriously in regard to our border.”

While the majority of the individuals being surveilled were arrested, six are still outstanding and Boudreaux said the investigation will continue indefinitely until the operation is fully rooted out.

Derek Fleming
The Sun-Gazette | Contributor