June 02, 2015
A multistate drug trafficking organization allegedly imported 1,000 kilograms of heroin into the United States from Mexico, smuggling the drugs in car batteries, bumpers, vehicle traps and concealed cans for transfer to several cities including Philadelphia and Camden, according to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday.
Thirty-seven defendants affiliated with the Laredo Drug Trafficking Organization are facing charges for the alleged distribution and attempted distribution of multi-kilogram quantities of heroin, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Tuggle announced. Fourteen defendants hail from Philadelphia. Three others are from South Jersey.
The 108-count superseding indictment includes 62 counts of money laundering and 43 counts of substantive drug charges. It also includes charges for conducting a continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Antonio and Ismael Laredo, who are brothers from Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico, allegedly led the organization that conspired to smuggle and distribute heroin in the United States, according to the indictment.
The Laredo organization allegedly manufactured and imported heroin from Mexico and supplied affiliated drug trade organizations in Philadelphia, Camden, Atlanta, Chicago and New York City, among other cities.
“Because of the persistent and collaborative efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies across the country, a major supplier of heroin to the Philadelphia region is out of business," Memeger said in a statement.
The Laredo organization allegedly supplied street-level heroin operations in Philadelphia and regularly moved quantities ranging from 15 to 50 kilograms between an operation in Chicago and Philadelphia, according to the indictment. The organization also allegedly supplied heroin to the Camden-based Confesor Montalvo drug organization and the Philadelphia-area drug trade organizations allegedly run by Christian Serrano and Darbin and Gabriel Vargas.
The indictment alleges Laredo members used violence, including murder, arson, assault and kidnapping, to protect the organization's product and proceeds to prevent members from withdrawing.
“Dismantling this extremely violent international drug trafficking organization ended the flow of hundreds of kilograms of Mexican-based heroin into the Philadelphia region and is a direct result of DEA’s resolve to make our communities safer," Tuggle said in a statement. "This was a cooperative effort with local, state and federal agencies. The flow of Mexican-produced heroin into southeast Pennsylvania has been significantly impacted.”
Defendant Alejandro Sotelo allegedly served as a stash house operator and distributor in Chicago, arranging multi-kilogram heroin shipments to Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York.
The indictment alleges the Laredo brothers arranged for the manufacture and production of car batteries in Mexico with concealed compartments designed to import heroin.
In 2012, a courier allegedly concealed three kilograms of heroin inside a car battery for transport from Mexico to Philadelphia, according to the indictment. Another shipment of four kilograms allegedly was concealed inside a car speaker box. Couriers allegedly were directed to deliver the heroin, including 7.6 kilograms shipped in concealed fruit and vegetable cans in Texas, to the Vargas organization in September 2012.
The indictment alleges the Laredo brothers had numerous relatives and associates establish funnel accounts to launder at least $5 million in drug proceeds to Mexico. Laundering techniques allegedly included wire transfers and Western Union money grams.
The indictment also alleges defendant Omar Flores deposited large amounts of drug proceeds into a business account for Tri-County Auto Sales Inc., in Rockford, Illinois. Portions of that funding allegedly were used to purchase multiple vehicles needed to transport heroin and bulk U.S. currency in concealed compartments.
If convicted, the Laredo brothers each face a mandatory sentence of life in prison, millions of dollars in fines and criminal forfeiture judgment to the United States of up to $60 million. Most of the drug trafficking defendants face mandatory minimum sentences of at least 10 years in prison.
The local residents named in the indictment are: