Members of Mexican drug cartel caught moving 2.5 tons of Meth, 100,000 Fentanyl pills

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Raymond P. Donovan, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Division of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), and Dermot Shea, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), announced that JOSE LORETO GASTELUM‑TORRES and FREDY ALEJANDRO GASTELUM‑VEGA were charged in a criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to import approximately 2.5 tons of methamphetamine and 100,000 fentanyl pills into the United States.  The charge arises from a January 29, 2021, seizure by Mexico’s Secretaría de Marina (the “Mexican Navy”) of approximately 2.5 tons of methamphetamine and 100,000 fentanyl pills in Sinaloa, Mexico.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Thanks to the DEA, HSI, the NYPD, and the rest of our OCDETF New York Strike Force partners, as well as the Mexican Navy, a major shipment of potentially lethal drugs was interdicted before it could addict, poison, and potentially kill untold numbers of people in the United States.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Raymond P. Donovan said:  “There is a tidal wave of fentanyl and methamphetamine being pushed from Mexico into the United States.  Case in point, these two traffickers were allegedly caught red-handed with over $90 million dollars’ worth of fentanyl and methamphetamine.  Traffickers see opportunities when drug overdoses rise, and they are trying to flood American markets with these synthetic, highly addictive, and dangerous drugs.  DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to target drug networks to keep Americans safe and save lives.”

HSI Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said:  “Those arrested allegedly sought to traffic thousands of fentanyl pills and multiple tons of methamphetamine, which would only exacerbate the plague currently devastating our community while steadily increasing addictions and overdose deaths.  The Strike Force has been a proven model for success in dismantling transnational narcotics trafficking organizations.  HSI showcased our unique value at the Strike Force in this case by leveraging our border resources to not only effectively address threats and vulnerabilities but moreover promote collaboration in furthering these investigations, making timely and significant arrests, and stopping deadly drugs from flooding our streets.”

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said:  “Today’s charges demonstrate that the investigative efforts of the NYPD in coordination with our law enforcement partners are far-reaching and focused.  As long as individuals, wherever they may be, are involved in illegal narcotics trafficking, the NYPD and our partners will relentlessly work to end the threat to public safety.  I commend and thank the NYPD investigators, members of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force Initiative, agents from the New York Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the attorneys at the United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District, for their dedication to this investigation.

As alleged in the Complaint unsealed in federal court[1]:

On or about January 29, 2021, the Mexican Navy located and began tracking an outboard‑powered boat traveling from Las Arenitas, Sinaloa, Mexico, northwest through the Gulf of California.  Approximately several hours later, the Mexican Navy interdicted the vessel in or around Topolobampo, Sinaloa, Mexico, and arrested GASTELUM‑TORRES and GASTELUM‑VEGA.  Mexican Navy officers seized approximately 960 plastic containers from the boat, which contained approximately 2.5 tons of methamphetamine and 100,000 pills of fentanyl.

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GASTELUM‑TORRES, 53, and GASTELUM‑VEGA, 33, of Mexico, are each charged with conspiring to import at least 500 grams of methamphetamine and at least 400 grams of fentanyl into the United States, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by the judge.

This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (“OCDETF”) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location.  This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations.

This investigation was conducted by the OCDETF New York Strike Force in partnership with the DEA’s law enforcement partners.  The OCDETF New York Strike Force comprises federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies supported by OCDETF and the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.  The Strike Force is affiliated with the DEA’s New York Division and includes agents and officers of the DEA, NYPD, New York State Police, HSI, U.S. Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, New York National Guard, Clarkstown Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Port Washington Police Department, and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the OCDETF New York Strike Force and Mexico’s Secretaría de Marina.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Alexander Li, Benjamin Woodside Schrier, and Kyle A. Wirshba are in charge of the prosecution.

The charge contained in the Complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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