Central Valley

2 Modestans indicted in $17.5 million heroin sting

FRESNO — A federal grand jury indicted two alleged Modesto drug kingpins who authorities say were responsible for smuggling $17.5 million in heroin from Mexico and distributing it throughout the Central Valley and Bay Area.

Fabio Cazares-Zamora, 36, and Martha Garibay-Hernandez are both in federal custody in Fresno, charged with conspiracy to import heroin into the United States and to smuggle heroin trafficking proceeds back to Mexico, authorities announced Thursday.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, both the heroin smuggled into the United States from Mexico and the bulk cash smuggled back to Mexico were transported in elaborate hidden compartments within the engines or transmissions of specially-built vehicles.

"This heroin organization operating out of California's Central Valley and supplying much of the Bay Area with this dangerous drug has been effectively dismantled," said DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Anthony D. Williams.

The heroin importation and distribution conspiracies carry possible sentences of 10 years in prison to life in prison, along with a maximum fine of $4 million. The bulk cash smuggling conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.

A third Modesto man, Jose Luis Lopez, 31, also is in federal custody for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin.

The indictment, unsealed Thursday, included 21 defendants from the Bay Area and Central Valley.

The rest of the charges include distribution of heroin within 1,000 feet of a school or playground, conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin, and possession of heroin with intent to distribute.