Meth drug bust in Pasadena has ties to Sinaloa drug cartel

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Two-dozen alleged members and associates of a Pasadena street gang were indicted Thursday for selling methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine that federal authorities said were supplied from the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico.

The 18-month investigation started with a tip to Pasadena police officers that a man was selling meth in the Pasadena and Altadena areas. That tip unraveled a drug distribution network operated from the Antelope Valley.

“The methamphetamine had come from Mexico through other states in the southwest and ended up here in our local area,” said Tim Delaney, head of the FBI’s criminal division in Los Angeles.

Three indictments unsealed Thursday targeted members of the multi-generational street gang Varrio Pasadena Rifa that authorities say are known to distribute meth in the San Gabriel Valley. Twelve alleged gang members were arrested early Thursday morning. 

Throughout the investigation, narcotic detectives seized 60 lbs. of meth, 6 lbs. of tar heroin and 5 lbs. of power cocaine worth $2.5 million on the street, according to police.

“I see methamphetamine as an upcoming and emerging problem,” said Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez.

The relationship between drug trafficking and street gangs is not new. Last year, 27 street gang members in the Pomona area were charged with selling drugs, meth specifically, that was supplied by the Mexican-drug cartel La Familia Michoacana.

This week, another FBI and Los Angeles police joint task force took down 19 alleged members and associates of the Mara-Salvatrucha-13 gang on federal charges for meth distribution.

Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Steve Woodland said Los Angeles has always been a well-known drug distribution hub because the dense metro area makes it easy to hide the narcotics.

“In many of our take-downs, the drugs are being sourced out of Mexico and the Sinaloa cartel is the primary supplier of the drugs we're finding on the streets,” he said.  

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