Law enforcement officers in several states Wednesday arrested six defendants named in a federal grand jury indictment alleging they participated in a Southern California-based outfit that trafficked multi-pound quantities of cocaine to Alaska via commercial air flights and the mail.
The defendants made their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Anchorage, Chicago and Seattle. Along with the six arrested Wednesday, one defendant is in state custody in California while another is expected to surrender to federal law enforcement in the coming week, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The indictment alleges that, from July 2014 to August 2016, the defendants conspired to traffic multi-pound quantities of cocaine -- along with other drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine -- out of Southern California. The drugs and resulting cash proceeds were transported via commercial air travel and by mail to Alaska, according to the indictment.
Raul Cisneros Jr., 42, of Compton, is listed as the lead defendant and the organization's reputed supplier in the indictment, which alleges that authorities in Los Angeles County seized nearly 53 pounds of cocaine, more than 7.7 pounds of methamphetamine and $568,357 in cash from him on Oct. 23, 2015, along with various firearms and ammunition.
The indictment also alleges that nearly 4.4 pounds of cocaine and more than $12,000 in cash were seized in a motel parking lot in Anchorage on June 11, 2015. The cocaine had been mailed to Natasha Monique Bushner, 31, of Los Angeles, who delivered it to Margus ``Melly Mel'' Gipson, 35, of Compton, the indictment alleges.
All of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, an offense that carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in federal prison up to life behind bars.
Cisneros is charged with seven additional drug- and firearm-related felonies. Asia Dawnta Williams, 27, of Chicago, Damon Eugene "Big Head" Smith, 37, of Compton, and Gipson and his brother, Dawaun Darnell "Caddy" Gipson, 36, of Compton, are charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin, which carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence up to a 40-year maximum penalty.