Score:   1
Docket Number:   CD-CA  2:18-cr-00505
Case Name:   USA v. Soto
  Press Releases:
          LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities have arrested 12 defendants on federal narcotics and fraud charges stemming from an investigation into the Puente 13 street gang. Those arrested last night and this morning are among 17 defendants named in a series of indictments returned by a federal grand jury that allege various offenses, including narcotics, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. The other five charged defendants were already in federal and state custody.

          The investigation into the Mexican Mafia-affiliated Puente 13 street gang was led by the United States Secret Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration, and included a series of wiretaps that revealed criminal activity by gang members, gang associates and others.

          The 17 defendants are charged in 12 indictments and one criminal complaint that allege a wide range of crimes, including possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, felon in possession of a firearm, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, illegal possession of access devices (credit cards), possession of access device making equipment, and possession of stolen mail.

          The investigation began when authorities learned that Puente 13 member Victor Ponce De Leon was allegedly involved in drug trafficking, with intercepted communications indicating he was willing to sell methamphetamine. One of the indictments that names Ponce De Leon specifically alleges a drug transaction in which he sold a quarter ounce of methamphetamine while armed with a 9mm handgun.

          As the investigation expanded, authorities also uncovered an identity theft ring. While most of the participants are charged in separate cases, stolen credit cards and personal identifying information from numerous common victims were found in the possession of multiple defendants.

          During the five-month investigation, law enforcement also uncovered a scheme to smuggle narcotics into the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic. That conduct is captured in an indictment alleging that Ricky Lee Thornburg, another Puente 13 member who was an inmate at the Pitches Detention Center, planned to receive smuggled methamphetamine from fellow co-conspirators and distribute the drugs to other inmates. This indictment, which charges the alleged supplier of the drugs and a woman who allegedly attempted to smuggle the methamphetamine into the facility, alleges that more than two ounces of methamphetamine and some heroin, all of which was concealed in plastic drinking straws, was intercepted as the woman was preparing to visit De Leon at Pitchess in May.

          The 17 defendants charged as a result of this investigation are:



Victor Ponce De Leon, a convicted felon also known as “Dopey,” 26, of La Puente, who in charged in two indictments with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, distributing methamphetamine, possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, being a felon in possession of a firearm, bank fraud, conspiring to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and possessing stolen mail;





James W. Butcher, 54, of Covina, who allegedly agreed to purchase methamphetamine from Ponce De Leon for redistribution;





Ricky Lee Thornburg, also known as “Shorty,” 39, of Glendora, who is charged in two indictments with orchestrating the plot to smuggle narcotics into Pitchess, as well as possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it and carrying a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking;





Beatris Gomez, 39, of Glendora, who allegedly supplied the narcotics to be smuggled into the jail and drove to the facility, is also charged with possessing an access device reader/encoder;





Patricia Marie Jimenez, 32, of La Puente, who is charged in two indictments with attempting to smuggle the narcotics into the Pitchess by hiding the drug-laden straws in her boots, as well as possessing counterfeit currency, possessing unauthorized access devices, aggravated identity theft and possession of stolen mail;





Melody Basye, 38, of San Bernardino, who allegedly possessed methamphetamine with intent to distribute it, possessed counterfeit access devices and possessed an access-device maker;





Joseph Anthony Castro, 37, of Azusa, who allegedly possessed with intent to distribute heroin, possessed counterfeit access devices (including social security numbers), committed aggravated identity theft, and possessed approximately $4,650 in counterfeit currency;





Matthew Burciaga, also known as “Porky,” 32, of La Puente, who allegedly possessed an access device reader/encoder;





Yvonne Marie Estrada, 35, of Covina, who allegedly possessed with intent to distribute methamphetamine;





Maribel Gomez, 25, of Azusa, who allegedly committed bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and possessed with intent to distribute methamphetamine;





Elizabeth Joyce McDowell, also known as “Lilly,” 23, of West Covina, who allegedly conspired to commit bank fraud, and committed aggravated identity theft;





Priscilla Telles, also known as “Babydoll,” 31, of La Puente, who allegedly conspired to commit bank fraud and committed aggravated identity theft;





David Ortega, also known as “No-No,” 23, of Hacienda Heights, who allegedly possessed unauthorized access devices, committed aggravated identity theft, and possessed stolen mail;





Ulices Ramon Soto, also known as “Uli,” 36, of Whittier, who allegedly was a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, possessed unauthorized access devices, committed aggravated identity theft, possessed device-making equipment, and possessed stolen mail;





Thomas Arroyave, 34, of Azusa, who allegedly possessed unauthorized access devices, committed aggravated identity theft, possessed with intent to use or transfer at least five identification documents, possessed access device-making equipment, possessed stolen mail, and was a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition;





Edward Padilla, also known as “Spunks,” 24, of Chino Hills, who allegedly was a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition; and





Ruby Escarcega, 22, of Chino Hills, who allegedly aided and abetted a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition;



          The 12 defendants arrested last night and today are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. The other five – Thornburg, Basye, Arroyave, Maribel Gomez and Jimenez – are expected to be brought into federal court for arraignments in these cases in the near future.

          Indictments and criminal complaints contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

          If convicted, those facing narcotics offenses general face mandatory minimum sentences of five years in federal prison and maximum possible sentences of 40 years. Those charged with fraud offenses face a range of penalties, with bank fraud carrying a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and aggravated identity theft carrying a mandatory consecutive two-year sentence.

          These cases are the result of an investigation by the United States Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration. Substantial assistance was provided by the Glendora Police Department and the Culver City Police Department.

          These case are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Scott M. Lara, William M. Rollins, Veronica M.A. Alegría, Julia S. Choe and Sara B. Milstein of the General Crimes Section.

Docket (0 Docs):   https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ZRhdAshRPzWost0gla-XevdRPI-QlRZGzfuDkx1tj8U/edit#gid=0
  Last Updated: 2020-09-14 07:32:09 UTC
Description: The fiscal year of the data file obtained from the AOUSC
Format: YYYY

Description: The code of the federal judicial circuit where the case was located
Format: A2

Description: The code of the federal judicial district where the case was located
Format: A2

Description: The code of the district office where the case was located
Format: A2

Description: Docket number assigned by the district to the case
Format: A7

Description: A unique number assigned to each defendant in a case which cannot be modified by the court
Format: A3

Description: A unique number assigned to each defendant in a case which can be modified by the court
Format: A3

Description: A sequential number indicating whether a case is an original proceeding or a reopen
Format: N5

Description: Case type associated with the current defendant record
Format: A2

Description: A concatenation of district, office, docket number, case type, defendant number, and reopen sequence number
Format: A18

Description: A concatenation of district, office, docket number, case type, and reopen sequence number
Format: A15

Description: The status of the defendant as assigned by the AOUSC
Format: A2

Description: A code indicating the fugitive status of a defendant
Format: A1

Description: The date upon which a defendant became a fugitive
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which a fugitive defendant was taken into custody
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date when a case was first docketed in the district court
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which proceedings in a case commenced on charges pending in the district court where the defendant appeared, or the date of the defendant’s felony-waiver of indictment
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: A code used to identify the nature of the proceeding
Format: N2

Description: The date when a defendant first appeared before a judicial officer in the district court where a charge was pending
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: A code indicating the event by which a defendant appeared before a judicial officer in the district court where a charge was pending
Format: A2

Description: A code indicating the type of legal counsel assigned to a defendant
Format: N2

Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the highest severity
Format: A20

Description: A code indicating the level of offense associated with FTITLE1
Format: N2

Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE1
Format: A4

Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE1
Format: A4

Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE1
Format: A3

Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the second highest severity
Format: A20

Description: A code indicating the level of offense associated with FTITLE2
Format: N2

Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE2
Format: A4

Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE2
Format: A4

Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE2
Format: A3

Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the third highest severity
Format: A20

Description: A code indicating the level of offense associated with FTITLE3
Format: N2

Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE3
Format: A4

Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE3
Format: A4

Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE3
Format: A3

Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the fourth highest severity
Format: A20

Description: A code indicating the level of offense associated with FTITLE4
Format: N2

Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE4
Format: A4

Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE4
Format: A4

Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE4
Format: A3

Description: The title and section of the U.S. Code applicable to the offense committed which carried the fifth highest severity
Format: A20

Description: A code indicating the level of offense associated with FTITLE5
Format: N2

Description: The four digit AO offense code associated with FTITLE5
Format: A4

Description: The four digit D2 offense code associated with FTITLE5
Format: A4

Description: A code indicating the severity associated with FTITLE5
Format: A3

Description: The FIPS code used to indicate the county or parish where an offense was committed
Format: A5

Description: The date of the last action taken on the record
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which judicial proceedings before the court concluded
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which the final sentence is recorded on the docket
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The date upon which the case was closed
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: The total fine imposed at sentencing for all offenses of which the defendant was convicted and a fine was imposed
Format: N8

Description: A count of defendants filed including inter-district transfers
Format: N1

Description: A count of defendants filed excluding inter-district transfers
Format: N1

Description: A count of original proceedings commenced
Format: N1

Description: A count of defendants filed whose proceedings commenced by reopen, remand, appeal, or retrial
Format: N1

Description: A count of defendants terminated including interdistrict transfers
Format: N1

Description: A count of defendants terminated excluding interdistrict transfers
Format: N1

Description: A count of original proceedings terminated
Format: N1

Description: A count of defendants terminated whose proceedings commenced by reopen, remand, appeal, or retrial
Format: N1

Description: A count of defendants pending as of the last day of the period including long term fugitives
Format: N1

Description: A count of defendants pending as of the last day of the period excluding long term fugitives
Format: N1

Description: The source from which the data were loaded into the AOUSC’s NewSTATS database
Format: A10

Description: A sequential number indicating the iteration of the defendant record
Format: N2

Description: The date the record was loaded into the AOUSC’s NewSTATS database
Format: YYYYMMDD

Description: Statistical year ID label on data file obtained from the AOUSC which represents termination year
Format: YYYY

Data imported from FJC Integrated Database
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