A federal jury has approved an indictment against six suspects of planning to smuggle a large number of weapons and ammunition from the United States for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) in Mexico, the United States Department of Justice said Monday.
The 23-count indictment filed in Los Angeles federal court allowed the arrest of four of the defendants in the “Semper Infidelis” operation, in which several federal agencies participated.
Kristi Johnson, deputy director of the Los Angeles Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) explained in a statement that “the defendants, in this case, smuggled sophisticated weapons from the United States to one of the most violent cartels in Mexico, whose members they target not only rival gangs but also innocent Mexican citizens and Mexican law enforcement.”
The six suspects are accused of conspiring to violate regulations that “restrict the export of items that could make a significant contribution to the military potential of other nations or that could be detrimental to the foreign policy or national security of the United States. ” Five of the suspects are also charged with various counts of attempted smuggling.
Marco Antonio Santillán Valencia, 51, is the alleged leader of the organization that obtained and supplied weapons, firearm parts, and ammunition to the CJNG.
The man, arrested in Whittier, a city in Los Angeles County, allegedly used proceeds from the sale of narcotics to buy assault rifles, hundreds of thousands of assault rifle cartridges and numerous machine gun parts and accessories, some of which were smuggled into Mexico, mostly since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, detailed the Department of Justice.
Among the defendants detained by federal authorities are also Marco Santillán Jr., 29, who is the son of Santillán Valencia and was arrested in Oregon; Michael Díaz, 33 years old, and Luis De Arcos, 51 years old.
Also charged were Anthony Marmolejo Aguilar, 30, who is being held on state charges in North Carolina and has not yet been taken into federal custody, and Rafael Magallón Castillo, 34, who is at large.
“This case shows a plan to provide military-grade firearms to a major drug trafficking organization that commits heinous acts of violence in Mexico to further its goal of flooding the United States with dangerous and deadly narcotics,” warned US Attorney Tracy L. Wilson.
The alleged leader of the organization, Santillán Valencia, and his son are also accused of money laundering conspiracy.