A federal investigation that lasted several months dismantled a drug trafficking cell led by a man who warned he was forming his own drug cartel in California.
The authorities affirm that Omar Alberto Navarro, 38, had taken several steps to achieve his criminal dream: he bought drugs directly from a cartel that operates in Tijuana, hired women crossing cargoes In order not to arouse suspicion in the checkpoints, he sought a partner to open an “office” in Texas and even wanted to take control of the border city of Mexicali.
“Basically Nani, I’m starting my own little poster here ”, Navarro told one of his accomplices in a phone call that was intercepted on Dec. 8, according to an affidavit from Cliff Turton Larde, an agent with the National Security Investigations (HSI) unit, which is part of the Immigration Service and Customs Control (ICE).
“I’m going to go big,” Navarro anticipated, referring to the fact that he would travel to Mexico to transport a large quantity of narcotics to Bakersfield, his place of residence in the Central Valley of California.
In that audio which is part of the evidence in this case he stated “That Mexicali would be his”, which showed his intention to dominate the traffic of narcotics in that Baja California town.
But the criminal enterprise that Navarro was building collapsed in the early hours of Friday, March 26, when several agents surrounded his home in Bakersfield. Simultaneously, they appeared at the homes of seven of their associates in that region. The operations woke up the neighbors, who were alarmed to hear that the police ordered with their loudspeakers: “come out with your hands up,” according to the KGET channel.
ICE detectives first learned about Navarro’s illicit activities in March 2020, when one of his dealers sold a firearm to an informant from that agency. Once a federal judge granted that his cell phone was tapped, his entire network was exposed.
Distributors “in every major state”
They discovered that this man made direct deals with “a cartel in Tijuana” to buy fentanyl and methamphetamine from them, who crossed the border with his own people. From September to December 2020, Customs and Border Control (CBP) seized them at checkpoints in California more than 380 pounds of drug members of the Navarro criminal organization, according to prosecutors.
Other members of his cell were dedicated to selling narcotics, collecting the profits, buying cars to hide the merchandise, recruiting drivers and traveling to Mexico to coordinate the smuggling.
The investigation found that the cartel he worked with required Navarro to review the criminal records of each of the people he hired and with whom he did business.
In one of the recorded conversations, he explained it like this to who he thought was a potential partner from Texas: “These guys are going to ask. They will want to see your ID. They are people from the south. They will want to make sure that you are okay. “
He told that person that they had saved 200 pounds of dope, “But they won’t even last two days” to sell them. He also assured him that the organization from which he bought the merchandise had several hiding places in the US: “in every major state there is one, in every major city.”
That meeting in Bakersfield concluded with an agreement to sell 20 pounds of methamphetamine or ‘crystal’ for $ 3,500 per pound, a lower price. “You will be my office there (in Texas). I’ll take it to you, ”Navarro promised in the negotiation. “You will never have to come again. I assure”.
“Do not get nervous”
One of his techniques was to hire women to cross the shipments. One of them, Lizette Mendez, A 31-year-old from Delano, California, he passed more than 140 pounds of drugs through a checkpoint. While Mayra Guadalupe Galván, 31-year-old from the same city, transported 119 pounds of methamphetamine. Both were arrested on March 26 and face drug trafficking charges.
ICE spied on a text message conversation between the gang boss and one of its drivers on September 21, 2020. “It is moving fast,” Mayra Galván wrote about the vehicular crossing at the San Ysidro, California, gatehouse. “They have dogs everywhere”, she commented concerned.
“You’re fine … Don’t be nervous when you talk to them,” Navarro advised her about her interaction with customs agents. “Ok”, she replied.
Navarro was waiting for her at a gas station on the other side of the border. He never received the 105 packages of methamphetamine that they hid in the gas tank, the rear bumper and other parts of the car. Galván was detained by CBP officers.
Two months later, Lizette Méndez and Sandra Soto trained at the same US port of entry. They did not succeed either: they found 120 packages of ‘crystal’ and another two of fentanyl in his car.
Navarro spoke by phone with Méndez, who was the driver at the time, to find out what he had told federal agents. “What I’m going to say is that I found someone there … and they tricked me into bringing knives for a cockfight,” she said. “I’m not going to hand you over … You don’t have to worry … Your name has never been mentioned, ”he promised.
But the trafficker ended up turning his back on the woman. “Why do you keep saying that I don’t have to worry because you’re going to turn me in? If I didn’t make a shit # &% Is someone telling you to call me to set me up?” He asked angrily. “Do not call me Anymore”.
The San Ysidro checkpoint is the main methamphetamine and fentanyl gateway for the Sinaloa and Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) cartels, according to DEA reports. Both groups are fighting for control of Tijuana and have made Los Angeles one of their main distribution centers.
The end of your organization
Other communications intercepted by ICE reveal that Navarro’s smuggling network regularly recruited “girls” to transport narcotics from Tijuana.
They had a hard time doing it for a while and tasked a 41-year-old American man, Randal Jason Newell, with driving a 2005 Ford pickup truck carrying 80 packages of drugs. He couldn’t: he was captured on December 7, 2020 in San Ysidro.
That night, Navarro sensed that the merchandise had been intercepted and feared that his driver was cooperating with the government. “And the girl?” Asked one of his partners in a phone call. “No, this time it was a man. They have not released him. He must have confessed ”, Navarro warned.
This drug dealer learned he was being targeted on December 27, 2020, when a Kern County Sheriff’s patrol stopped one of his salesmen, Miguel Ángel Martínez, on Highway 5. He was driving a GMC truck and a police dog sniffed 18 pounds of methamphetamine.
“I think I’m screwed”, Navarro told one of his accomplices in a call.
But he didn’t stop: days later he was heard negotiating other drug sales until a few weeks before his arrest at his Bakersfield home, the ICE statement reads.
“The success of this operation highlights the importance and need for law enforcement collaboration,” said Tatum King, HSI special agent in Northern California, in a statement.
The Federal Prosecutor’s Office warns that Navarro faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment. In addition, you could be fined $ 10 million.