Riverside County deputy, 14 others arrested in drug trafficking bust

Culminating a yearlong investigation dubbed "Hotline Bling," authorities in Riverside County have seized millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs and arrested 15 people suspected of helping a Sinaloa, Mexico, cartel's drug trafficking network, including a Riverside County Sheriff's deputy.

In collaboration with the Riverside Police Department and the United States Postal Service, federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized 376 pounds of methamphetamine, 37.4 pounds of fentanyl, 600,000 fentanyl tablets,1.4 kilograms of cocaine and seven firearms, according to a police report.

The drugs, which could have supplied the ingredients for 10 million lethal doses, have an estimated value of $16 million, according to the report.

“As fentanyl and methamphetamine continue to ravage our communities, we will continue to target drug trafficking organizations that put profit over people’s lives,” said U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada of the Central District of California. “The indictment filed by my office alleges that three men shipped kilogram-quantity parcels of narcotics through the United States Postal Service. Those who traffic in dangerous narcotics must be held accountable.”

The investigation resulted in six defendants being charged in three federal indictments, as well as 16 state arrest warrants to be issued against 16 people. Not all of the 16 people facing arrest had been detained as of Thursday afternoon.

During the investigation, DEA agents learned of a "corrupt" Riverside County Correctional Deputy, but did not provide the deputy's name or further details on the alleged wrongdoing because the investigation is ongoing, said DEA spokesperson Rosa Valle-Lopez.

The agents and Riverside police provided their investigative leads to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and ultimately assisted in the arrest of the deputy while he was allegedly in possession of 104 pounds of fentanyl pills.

George Alexander Aranda, Edwin Michael Alva and Christopher Arreola Alvarado were indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute at least 400 grams of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

In court documents, prosecutors alleged that Alva or Alvarado procured fentanyl to be distributed to customers. Alvarado operated and maintained a drug stash in Perris, the court documents alleged, and the two men would package fentanyl at the stash house for shipping through the mail. Aranda and Alva would take the packaged fentanyl and mail it to customers from post offices in and around Riverside County, prosecutors alleged.

Aranda remained at large Thursday, but Alva and Alvarado were in custody.

Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez said in a statement that his department would continue to leverage every available resource to disrupt drug distribution "trying to make its way into our Riverside neighborhoods."

“Our collaboration with the DEA is not just about enforcement, but it’s about safeguarding the future of our community and ensuring that Riverside remains a safe and thriving place for people to live, work, and raise families,” Gonzalez said.

Officials released the names of 12 people who were arrested, they are Jose Javier Raya Cortez, 21, of Perris; Cesar Noe RayaCortez, 23; Alexis Raeleen Trevino, 26; Edwin Michael Alva, 31; Julio Cesar Maganafranco Jr., 23; Christopher Antonio Arreola-Alvarado, 25, of Perris; Andrew Aguilar, 27; Mario Daniel MirandaDuarte, 33; Rolando Claros, 31; Herman Leon, 34; Carlos Ninoarias, 25; David Crosthwaite, 24. The individuals were charged with one or more of the following: possession for sales and transportation of a controlled substance and possession for sales of methamphetamine.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.