Ten Nuestra Familia members and associates plead guilty to drug charges

By Gangsters Inc. Editors

Ten members and associates of the Nuestra Familia prison gang pleaded guilty on Tuesday to drug trafficking offenses. Among them are leading figures who arranged narcotics transports from inside Fresno County’s Pleasant Valley State Prison.

According to court documents, in March 2019, various agencies partnered in an investigation named Operation Red Reaper into the Nuestra Familia prison gang and the Norteño street gang in Kings County, California. The investigation uncovered that the Nuestra Familia was responsible for large-scale trafficking of methamphetamine and cocaine, as well as various firearms offenses and other violent crimes. 

Arranging drug deals in Mexico from Fresno State Prison

According to court documents, high-ranking Nuestra Familia members Salvador Castro Jr. and Raymond Lopez used contraband cellphones from inside Fresno County’s Pleasant Valley State Prison to arrange the transport of illicit narcotics from drug sources in California and Mexico to a stash house in Kings County. From that stash house, gang members outside of the prison coordinated the preparation and delivery of the drugs to distributors throughout Kings and Tulare Counties.

10897887263?profile=RESIZE_710xPhoto: Castro (left) and Lopez (right)

Castro had already been serving a life sentence since 1997 for a third-strike conviction for possession of a firearm by an ex-felon. While Lopez was serving a 21-year term since 2013 for assault with a semi-automatic firearm with a street gang enhancement at the time of his arrest in this case.

At the conclusion of the operation, federal charges were brought against 23 of those defendants, with the remaining being charged by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office. Last Tuesday, the following defendants pleaded guilty:

Raymond Lopez, 35, of Pleasant Valley State Prison; Jesse Juarez, 32, of Visalia; Daniel Juarez, 30, of Visalia; Michael Rocha, 40, of Visalia; Angel Montes, 26, of Visalia; Rafael Lopez, 41, of Visalia; Manuel Barrera, 28, of Kettleman City; Joann Bernal, 36, of Armona; Ramon Amador, 33, of Riverdale; and Raul Lopez Jr., 51, of Visalia.

Two co-defendants have been sentenced after pleading guilty. On May 24, 2021, 52-year-old Salvador Castro Jr., of Fresno, was sentenced to 17 years and six months in prison, and on July 11, 2022, 36-year-old Manuel Garcia, of Armona, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Barrera, Amador, Montes, and Raul Lopez are scheduled to be sentenced on March 6, 2023, and the remaining defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on March 20, 2023. They face a range of mandatory minimum sentences from between five to 15 years in prison and a range of maximum sentences, including up to life in prison.

Charges are pending against the remaining defendants.

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