Crime & Courts

18 indicted in connection with Wichita drug-trafficking ring linked to Wichita

A federal grand jury has returned a 107-count indictment against 18 men accused of being part of a Wichita drug-trafficking ring linked to Mexico, U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch said Friday.

The indictment "describes a far-reaching operation in which conspirators carried guns and laundered significant sums of cash from peddling drugs," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

According to the indictment, the alleged trafficking involved varying amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine and marijuana.

Besides drug distribution, the charges include allegations of money laundering, unlawful entry into the United States and unlawful use of a telephone to further drug trafficking.

Two of the men are charged with using violence and threats of violence to collect drug debts.

The indictment accuses some of the men of illegally possessing, using or transporting rifles, including an AK-47, 12-gauge shotguns and a variety of handguns.

The 107 counts include penalties of up to 40 years in prison and up to $4 million in fines.

Some charges target proceeds of the alleged crimes. The U.S. Attorney's Office noted that the government is seeking judgments of up to $197,000 from certain alleged conspirators.

The alleged crimes cover a period from around October 2008 until March 2010.

Five of the men are alleged to be Mexican citizens who committed crimes after illegally entering the United States, the office said. Ten are Spanish speakers who will have interpreters for court hearings.

Named in the indictment are: Alejandro Calderon, 33; Jesus Cisneros, 26; Rudolph Beach III, 23; Henry Brooks, 37; Esteban Gauna, 30; Timothy Lawrence, 23; Armando Rodriguez, 32; Julio Ruiz Rios, 24; Audon Soto Salas, 38; Wesley Shelton, 49; and Luis Valeriano, 19, all of Wichita; Tyler Green, 26, Zenda, Kan.; and Jose Fernando Espinoza-Placensia, 34; Heriberto Miranda-Roldan, 24; Juan Manuel Ortiz, 26; Jose Gomez Solorio, 31; Omar Torres, 24; and Ricardo O. Quintana, 25; for whom no hometowns were given.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has investigated the case, and the U.S. Attorney's Office is prosecuting it.