A huge task force of local and federal drug agents swooped down on nine Oxnard houses Thursday in a pre-dawn assault on what they called a sophisticated trafficking ring that used Oxnard as a major distribution point for cocaine and other drugs.
The raids by a force of 90 officers, the result of a three-year undercover investigation, netted the alleged leader of a drug ring that shipped cocaine from Oxnard as far north as San Francisco, agents said.
The alleged ringleader, Jorge Sanchez Gaxiola, 37, was arrested in Oxnard with two of his relatives and six other suspects. Two kilograms of cocaine were found at Gaxiola's residence, said Ralph Lochridge, a spokesman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Oxnard played a key role in the power base of the organization," he said.
The arrests were part of a larger operation involving more than 300 officers who raided 63 residences Thursday in Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles counties.
In all, 39 people were arrested, including six members of Gaxiola's family in Lompoc. Agents seized a total of 12 pounds of cocaine, 18 pounds of marijuana, one pound of methamphetamine and one pound of heroin, authorities said.
Lochridge said the ring dealt primarily in wholesale amounts of Colombian cocaine, but also supplied heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine to dealers in Ventura County and elsewhere.
He said the arrests "represent the elimination of one of the major suppliers for cocaine and narcotics to the central coast."
According to DEA agents, the drug pipeline began in Sinaloa, Mexico, where wholesale quantities were shipped to Los Angeles and then to Oxnard. There, agents said, the drugs were broken into smaller quantities and shipped to Lompoc, where they were distributed to 100 to 200 dealers. Sometimes, Lochridge said, drugs were shipped directly from Oxnard to San Francisco and the Bay Area.
In Lompoc, large amounts of drugs were occasionally buried along rural roads, Lochridge said. "The fact that they were burying it on farmland, that's kind of unusual. You don't see that in L. A.," he said.
During the undercover investigation that led to Thursday's raids, members of the drug ring sold undercover agents 40 kilograms of cocaine worth an estimated $750,000 on the street, said Tim Gracey, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.
Lochridge said most of the key players in the organization were arrested. "They pretty much wiped out the main brain trust behind this organization," he said.
During the raids, officers confiscated four houses, $60,000 in cash, 12 vehicles and 14 weapons, including one automatic assault rifle, Gracey said.
In Oxnard, police found 15 ounces of heroin, one pound of methamphetamine, five pounds of cocaine and seven pounds of marijuana, Gracey said.
Oxnard Police Sgt. Mike Matlock said the homes that were raided were throughout the city. The drugs confiscated in Oxnard were found at four of the nine houses raided and have a street value of about $360,000, he said.
In addition to Jorge Gaxiola, others arrested in Oxnard were Theresa Gaxiola, 33; Jose Freddie Gaxiola, 27; Jesus Valdez, 29; Efrain Valdez, 28; Oscar Limon, 20; Ruben Limon, 22; Alfonso Limon, 22, and Rosario Benitez Camacho, 18.
All but three of them were being held in lieu of $10,000 bail each in Ventura County Jail on suspicion of possession for sale of a controlled substance, conspiracy to sell a controlled substance and possession of an illegal firearm. Jorge and Theresa Gaxiola and Jesus Valdez were taken into custody by DEA agents.
Agencies involved in the Oxnard raids included police departments from the cities of Oxnard and Ventura, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, the DEA, the Ventura County district attorney's office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.