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Large amounts of fentanyl/meth seized, more than dozen arrested in IE Cartel crackdown

Riverside Police

Riverside police Chief Larry Gonzalez said today a yearlong joint local-federal law enforcement investigation that interdicted the trafficking of fentanyl and other potentially deadly narcotics in the metropolitan area was aimed at "safeguarding the community,'' netting 15 arrests and the seizure of large quantities of illicit drugs.   

"We will continue leveraging every available resource to disrupt drug distribution trying to make its way into our Riverside neighborhoods,'' Gonzalez said of "Operation Hotline Bling," which involved a crackdown on members of the Sinaloa drug trafficking network out of Mexico.

Riverside Police Department personnel joined U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Postal Service inspectors to carry out the operation, which began in the winter of 2023.  

"Our collaboration with the DEA is not just about enforcement; 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.

In addition to the 15 arrests, authorities said 376 pounds of methamphetamine, 37 pounds of fentanyl, 600,000 fentanyl pills and 1.4 kilograms of cocaine were confiscated. The estimated street value of the narcotics was $16 million.   

"The steadfast collaboration, determination and long hours poured into this operation speak to the vehemence of our investigators and partners,'' DEA Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division Matthew Allen said. "We are committed to keeping dangerous drugs off our streets and are intent on holding all substance laws violators accountable.''  

The DEA has acknowledged that fentanyl is a dominant trade of the Mexican drug cartels, which bring the drugs across the southern border. The synthetic opioid is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and can be mixed into any number of street narcotics and prescription drugs, without a user knowing what he or she is consuming. Ingestion of only two milligrams can be fatal.

Among the individuals snared during Operation Hotline Bling was ex-Riverside County sheriff's correctional Deputy Jorge Alberto Oceguera Rocha, 25, of Banning.   

He was charged with transportation of controlled substances, possession of controlled substances for sale and sentence-enhancing allegations of perpetrating a drug-related offense while armed.

Rocha was arrested last September during a traffic stop on Interstate 10 in Calimesa, following a lengthy investigation involving local and federal personnel.

"After a K9 alerted to the presence of narcotics within the vehicle, a search was conducted,'' sheriff's Capt. Rob Roggeveen said. "Located in the vehicle was (104) pounds of packaged fentanyl pills -- M30s. Also located in the vehicle was a loaded handgun.''

According to a Riverside police statement, "the DEA and Riverside police provided investigative leads to the sheriff's department, ultimately assisting in the arrest of the deputy."  

His next court appearance is Monday at the Riverside Hall of Justice.    Among others arrested in recent weeks on federal narcotics charges were Edwin Michael Alva, 31, of San Jacinto; Christopher Antonio Arreola Alvarado, 25, of Perris; and Jose Javier Raya Cortez, 21, of Perris.

Officials said Cortez will be prosecuted in Delaware, while the others will be prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Southern California.

Article Topic Follows: Fentanyl Crisis

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