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8 arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking and human smuggling

The ring, with ties to the Drew Street clique of the Avenues gang, is alleged to have smuggled more than 200 illegal immigrants into the United States a year.

October 15, 2009|Andrew Blankstein

Federal authorities have arrested eight people, and were seeking a ninth, with ties to the Drew Street clique of the Avenues gang on suspicion of drug trafficking and human smuggling.

Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement served warrants Wednesday morning and Tuesday night at locations in the Imperial Valley and Los Angeles.

One of the sites in the 2800 block of Avenue 34 in northeast Los Angeles was the base for the smuggling ring and served as a "drop house" before illegal immigrants were taken to their final locations, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in a statement.

The ring charged people up to $4,500, provided phony immigration papers and smuggled the human cargo into the United States from Mexico concealed in trucks and hidden compartments of vehicles.

Some of the defendants face up to 30 years in federal prison if convicted on all counts.

A federal grand jury indictment names Teodoro Alvarez-Estrada, 56, and his wife, Aquilina Alvarez, 56. They were arrested after a search of their northeast Los Angeles home turned up three firearms, ICE officials said.

Also arrested were Eduardo Alvarez-Marquez, 35, of Los Angeles and Holtville residents Martina Araceli Carreon, 44, and Jose Carreon, 47. Others in custody were Calexico residents Ruben Servin-Mejia, 37, and Maria Toledo-Fierros, 49; and Yesenia Rubi Mendoza-Gonzalez of Mexicali, Mexico.

The investigation began in August 2008 from information developed by the Los Angeles Police Department and federal authorities in their probe of crime tied to the Avenues street gang.

The ring is alleged to have smuggled more than 200 illegal immigrants into the United States a year. Federal investigators said that at one point the alleged smugglers were negotiating with Avenues gang members to bring Maria Leon, matriarch and shot-caller of the Drew Street clique, into the United States from Mexico.

Leon, now in prison for racketeering crimes related to the Avenues, eventually used another smuggling group, federal authorities said.

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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