A San Diego federal grand jury indicted 60 people after a broad investigation of phone conversations uncovered a vast San Diego-based methamphetamine distribution network, authorities said Tuesday.
The organization is accused of supplying multi-pound quantities of methamphetamine to dozens of sub-distributors throughout the county, as well as in Arizona, Iowa, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and Texas, according to a warrant affidavit from record.
Dubbed Operation Crystal Hydra, the year-long investigation ended with the seizure of 73 kilograms of methamphetamine, 90 weapons and $ 250,000 in cash, according to authorities.
The charges include conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession for distribution and importation of methamphetamine, as well as a money laundering conspiracy.
The investigation began in the spring of 2020 based on information from a confidential informant, who identified John Bomenka as a major methamphetamine dealer in San Diego, according to the affidavit. The investigation expanded from there, with the discovery that David Villegas was the main source for Bomenka, authorities said.
This led to Reyes Espinoza of San Ysidro, a suspected methamphetamine source further up the chain, running the distribution business with the help of various family members, according to court records.
The investigation relied on a number of tactics, including six rounds of court-authorized wiretapping, surveillance, GPS tracking of mobile phones, confidential informants and undercover drug purchases, according to the affidavit.
Methamphetamine was traded in parking lots throughout the county, at banks, shopping malls, and convenience stores.
Villegas, who lived in a motorhome at the Mission Bay RV Resort, told a confidential informant that he had purposely chosen his maroon Buick as an inconspicuous car for his meth deliveries, so as not to attract attention, according to the affidavit. He said he was driving other cars when he was not on an official mission.
Villegas also bragged about how he was able to go unnoticed by security forces trying to eavesdrop on his calls, saying he bought a new $ 30 disposable phone every week, according to court records.
According to investigators, the operation was carried out in part through at least two alleged hiding places, one in Mountain View and one in Clairemont.
Officers watched from afar one day in October 2020 as an alleged courier arrived at the Mountain View home on 46th Street and removed a plastic garbage bag from under his truck. Then he went through a door, deposited the bag in the backyard, and left.
After he left, officers sneaked into the backyard and seized the bag, which contained five bales wrapped in plastic and coated in red grease.
Investigators then heard in the wiretaps the confusion their secret seizure had created, as the alleged dealers tried to find out who had stolen the bag: perhaps neighbors, or perhaps an inside job, they guessed.
At the same time the network shipped the drug, it also processed the cash it received, with tens of thousands of dollars in illicit profits being returned to leaders through structured cash deposits in bank accounts – all of them less than $ 10,000 to bypass mandatory bank information laws — as well as bulk cash transfers and money transfers through online applications, the affidavit states.
The network allegedly took advantage of high demand and higher prices for its product out of state.
Villegas had a client who was traveling to San Diego from Hawaii to purchase methamphetamine, he told a confidential informant, according to court records. The drugs were then mailed to Hawaii, where, he said, methamphetamine comes at a high price: $ 800 an ounce.
The investigation also relates to a piece of land in Remer, a small rural community in northern Minnesota. Investigators have listed the property as an asset that must be confiscated as part of the case.