SAN DIEGO (CN) — Forty-six people were arrested and nine more are being sought in a federal sweep aimed at drug and gun traffickers in Northern San Diego County, whose heroin is blamed for doubling overdose deaths in the past decade.
More than 150 officers from 11 law enforcement agencies rounded up suspects named in 10 indictments in Operation No Worries, acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson said in a statement Wednesday.
The yearlong investigation by the North County Regional Gang Task Force involved months of federal wiretaps, dozens of undercover drug and gun buys and extensive surveillance.
Prosecutors say the gun and drugs ring was run by defendant Yadira “Pini” Villalvazo, 38, of Tijuana, who allegedly has links to the Sinaloa Cartel. She attended Vista High School in and was a member of the Vista Home Boys street gang before being deported after a federal drug trafficking conviction in 2002, according to the indictments.
Villalvazo’s organization supplied at least 25 percent of the heroin sold in Northern San Diego County and supplied pounds of heroin to a ring as far away as Kingman, Arizona, according to the acting U.S. attorney.
Another gang leader, Jorge Enrique Jara Cervantes, 28, of Vista, sent pounds of methamphetamines to Tennessee and Alabama, prosecutors said.
Heroin deaths in San Diego County have more than doubled in the past decade, from 40 in 2005 to 90 in 2015, even with the use of naloxone to treat overdoses, Robinson said. San Diego paramedics used the drug 1,340 times in 2015 on who had overdosed.
Robinson said the Wednesday roundup has “taken out one of North County’s largest heroin suppliers.”
“This crackdown is our most significant response to date to the heroin epidemic ravaging our communities. We anticipate seeing a huge impact now that these defendants are removed from our community, particularly in the North County cities of Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and other areas plagued by gangs.”
Meth-related deaths increased more than 80 percent between 2011 and 2015. About half of the adults arrested in San Diego County in 2015 tested positive for methamphetamine when they were arrested.
In addition to heroin and methamphetamine, 25 guns were seized, according to Robinson. The defendants also are suspected of numerous robberies, vehicle thefts, burglaries and assaults. If convicted, they face decades or up to life in prison.