“Investigating illegal drug activity of this scope can be extremely dangerous for the law enforcement officers involved. This operation, including the arrests, and the seizure of firearms and narcotics, works to make our communities and state a safer place to live.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
MADERA COUNTY – On November 3, 3022, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office announced the results of a multi-agency investigation into illegal drug activity.
In July of 2022, the Madera Narcotic Enforcement Team, the High Intensity Investigation Team, and the Fresno Drug Enforcement Administration, launched a joint investigation into the drug trafficking activities of Ernesto Beltran.
During the course of the investigation, detectives learned that Beltran was part of a large scale, Mexico based drug trafficking organization responsible for the importation, manufacturing, and distribution of methamphetamine throughout the state of California and neighboring states.
Investigators identified a large group of individuals who were involved in the importation, transportation, manufacturing, and distribution of methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl. The investigation revealed that methamphetamine in both liquid and solid form was transported into the United States through various points of entry. Once in the U.S., the liquid methamphetamine was converted to crystal methamphetamine at what are known as “ice recovery labs.” Once processed into solid form, it was distributed throughout the state of California, including the County of Madera.
Throughout the investigation, electronic intercepts were implemented to identify when drugs were being transported. Several traffic stops were orchestrated during the operation, resulting in the seizure of more than 230 pounds of methamphetamine.
In a separate incident, detectives coordinated the interception of a vehicle coming across the border from Mexico with more than 70 pounds of methamphetamine concealed in a spare tire.
During the course of this investigation, a methamphetamine conversion lab was discovered in Ducor, resulting in the seizure of 500 pounds of finished product and 500 pounds in liquid form.
Beginning on October 26, 2022 search warrants were served in Madera, Fresno, Merced, and Tulare Counties. During the service of these warrants, investigators located three additional clandestine laboratories and made multiple arrests. A total of four clandestine methamphetamine labs, responsible for converting liquid methamphetamine to crystal methamphetamine, were identified during this investigation; one in Madera County, two in Tulare County, and one in Fresno County.
At the time of this release, detectives have made nearly 30 arrests related to crimes discovered during this investigation.
Classified as “Operation Trifecta,” this is the largest narcotics seizure in Madera County’s history. To date, the operation has resulted in the seizure of more than 1,300 pounds of methamphetamine, 4 kilograms of heroin, and 2 kilograms of fentanyl. To quantify further, this equates to over 5,000,000 individual dosage units of methamphetamine, 10,000 dosage units of heroin, and 600,000 potentially fatal doses of fentanyl. 7 firearms have also been recovered.
The arrests of individuals associated with the organization have produced various felony and misdemeanor charges including the transportation and sale of methamphetamine, manufacture of methamphetamine, child endangerment and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Bail amounts range from $500,000 to $10,000,000.
Sheriff Tyson Pogue states, “This is a monumental day for public safety in Madera County. The arrests made in this case, along with the closure of several processing labs and seizure of substantial amounts of drugs from their operation, will undoubtedly make a significant impact on the safety of the residents of Madera County and the state of California as a whole. We are thankful for the collaboration between our allied agencies to successfully navigate and conclude this investigation. This operation would not have yielded such positive results without the teamwork between the Madera County Sheriff’s Office, the Madera County District Attorney’s Office, Chowchilla Police Department, Madera County Probation, the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Justice, Fresno Drug Enforcement Administration, US Customs and Border Patrol, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Merced County Sheriff’s Office, Kings County Sheriff’s Office, and the Turlock Police Department. This historical investigation should be a compelling indication to all of the relentless efforts we dedicate to taking a stand against drugs, and the criminal activity they provoke, in Madera County.”
The findings from this case will now be transferred to the Madera County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.