SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A federal drug task force brought charges Friday and Monday against five men from southwest Missouri who are suspected of importing methamphetamine from California and Mexico and selling it in this area. All five of the men were in custody by Tuesday.
The charges are against Noe Moreno-Malagon of Ozark, Juan Moreno-Malagon of Highlandville, Jesus Moreno-Malagon of Ozark, Valentin Gomez-Torres of Battlefield, and Luis Ramon-Lara.
The charges say the men distributed “in excess of 50 grams of actual methamphetamine” over the past two years. A task force with officers from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Springfield Police Department has been investigating them.
According to an affidavit that is the basis of the charges, the group brought in meth in shipments of four kilograms (nearly nine pounds) on each trip to California and Mexico. Once it arrived in the Ozarks, it was broken down, processed and distributed in “multi-ounce to partial ounce quantities.” The affidavit says an informant paid $13,000 on at least two occasions for about one-quarter pound of pure and nearly pure meth to Juan Moreno-Malagon and Jesus Moreno-Malagon.
The investigation may have started in the summer of 2011 after the Texas Highway Patrol stopped a vehicle headed for Springfield with four kilos of meth. The DEA stopped another shipment in the Springfield area later that summer.
The task force investigated the operation with undercover informants, by listening to telephone calls of the five men, and by using hidden microphones and cameras. The affidavit indicates one of the undercover informants started cooperating with the task force after he was busted with a pound of meth in a vehicle last Feb. 13. The affidavit says that informant may have gone back to distributing meth for Noe Moreno-Malagon since last July.
Noe Moreno-Malagon is in the Christian County jail for what appears to be an unrelated charge of forcible sodomy and first-degree statutory sodomy with a person under age 14. Christian County sheriff’s deputies arrested him last Friday.
Gomez-Torrres, Juan Moreno-Malagon, Jesus Moreno-Malagon, and Ramon-Lara were arrested on Monday. Officers arrested Ramon-Lara at a ranch near Morrisville, where they said they found about a pound of meth in a bedroom where he stayed. After appearing before a federal magistrate, they're due back in court on Thursday for a preliminary hearing and detention hearing.
If they’re convicted, the men could each get federal prison sentences of 10 years to life and/or fines up to $4 million.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun