Authorities charged 14 people in federal court Thursday with conspiring to traffic large amounts of methamphetamine from Mexico to Augusta-area counties.
The charges follow a joint investigation by the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the State of Georgia Pardons and Parole Office, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver’s office.
“This Mexico-based criminal enterprise is alleged to have established its methamphetamine distribution base of operations within the Central Savannah River Area and, after an intensive investigation culminated in a extensive law enforcement action this week, those operations have come to a sudden end,” said Mark F. Giuliano, the special agent in charge at the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office.
According to the statement, the suspects have been charged with conspiring to traffic meth from Mexico to Richmond, Columbia and McDuffie counties.
Of the 14 people charged with conspiracy to traffic, 11 have been arrested: Florentino Binzha-Elisa, 46, of Warrenville; Gilberto Fabona Gaona, 38, of Augusta; Jesus Avala Lombera 32, of Augusta; Oscar Piedra, 39, of Augusta; Fidel Sanchez Garcia, 32, of Augusta; Henri Vertez Travis, 38, of Hephzibah; Tyler James Barcenas, 21, of Augusta; Naun Padilla, 34, of Augusta; Huber Romero, 37, of Augusta; Victor Eduardo Ovalle Jr., 20, of Harlem; and Jose Ines Davila, 34, of North Augusta.
Authorities are still seeking Eduardo Juarez Gallegos, 44, of Ridgeland, S.C.; Jorge Perez Rodriguez, 31, of Harlem; and Maximo Moreno, 70, of Harlem.
If found guilty, each defendant will face a maximum penalty of life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million.
Tarver is also seeking to forfeit personal property involved in the offenses, including more than $2 million made through drug trafficking.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the three remaining defendants can call the FBI Augusta Field Office at (706) 722-3702.