20 drug-trafficking suspects indicted

SAN DIEGO — Federal indictments unsealed in San Diego Wednesday charge 20 people with cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine trafficking, authorities reported.

The suspects — residents of Chula Vista, El Cajon, San Diego and Spring Valley — were arrested as part of a yearlong investigation involving months of federal wiretaps, numerous undercover drug and gun buys, and extensive surveillance, according to prosecutors.

Many of the defendants are associates of local street gangs, and some have ties to Mexican drug cartels, officials said.

Sixteen of the suspects are in federal or state custody, and authorities are continuing to search for the others. Six of the accused were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Clinton Averitte on Tuesday.

“Drugs are destroying lives and families and bringing violence to our communities, and we are more committed than ever to prosecuting these cases,” San Diego-area U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. “Gangs are most often the distributors of these deadly poisons, and we have a special resolve to go after them.”

The case is headed by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

The principal mission of the collaborative program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute high-level members of illicit drug and weapon trafficking enterprises, and money laundering organizations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.