"Don Chuy Drug Trafficking Organization," the ring allegedly obtained meth in Mexico and arranged for large quantities to be smuggled into the United States, concealed in hidden compartments and fake car batteries in vehicles driven across the border, according to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. The ring then distributed the drugs through cells based in the Inland Empire and the Central Valley, as well as Washington state, Mrozek said. The organization -- named after the ring's alleged leader, Jesus Marquez- Marquez, known as "Don Chuy" -- allegedly stored the drugs in Tijuana stash houses before moving shipments across the border. Marquez-Marquez, the lead defendant in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, is believed to be somewhere in the Mexican state of Michoacan, according to federal investigators. Several of Don Chuy's top lieutenants were arrested today or were already in federal custody, Mrozek said. The alleged overseer of meth distribution in the U.S. was Jose Alfredo Jimenez, of Mira Loma, Temecula who was taken into custody this afternoon, along with the following Riverside County residents: -- Martin Garcia Angulo, known as "King Midas," of Perris; -- Sergio Chavez Pulido, known as "Checo," of Mira Loma; -- Erika Cecilia Valdovino, of Moreno Valley. -- and Alma Rodriguez, of Corona. The defendants were either directly involved in smuggling the narcotics or were aiding and abetting members of the various distribution cells, authorities alleged. The criminal complaint charges 31 defendants with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, which carries a statutory maximum penalty of life without parole in federal prison.
"The organization targeted today is believed to be responsible for bringing more than 200 pounds of meth into Southern California every month -- enough meth to supply thousands of people with this highly addictive and dangerous drug," said Timothy J. Landrum of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Along with today's arrests, authorities seized five pounds of the drug at a house in San Bernardino that authorities believe was maintained by the organization, Mrozek said. During an eight-month investigation of the ring, authorities seized about 90 pounds of meth with a street value of well over $5 million, Mrozek said.