Two Merced County men and five others were charged in Fresno federal court Thursday on suspicion of operating a large-scale methamphetamine ring.
The men were taken into custody as part of a yearlong investigation conducted by agents with the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA), state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, Fresno Methamphetamine Task Force and the Fresno Resident Office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Agents with the Merced/Mariposa HIDTA Task Force helped with the operation.
The men include Fernando Avila, 38, of Delhi; Rafael Mendez Esparza, 37, of Merced; David "Joselo" Godinez, 28, of Modesto; Jose Refugio "Joaquin" Alcantar, 26, of Ceres; and Miguel Para-Rosas, 27, of Ceres.
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Fresno Methamphetamine Task Force agents began investigating Godinez and Avila as early as May, resulting in Esparza's arrest and the May 17 seizure of about 17.9 pounds of methamphetamine, according to Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, Eastern District of California.
Agents on Tuesday executed search warrants in Merced and Stanislaus counties, resulting in the seizure of more than 35 pounds of meth and the arrests of the remaining suspects, according to Horwood.
If convicted, the men face 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.