According to federal investigators, multiple accused members of a violent cartel have been indicted in Arizona on human smuggling and narcotics trafficking charges.
All Mexican citizens, Jorge Damian Roman-Figueroa, Luis Eduardo Roman-Flores, Manuel Jose Bernal, Joel Salazar-Ballesteros, and Jesus Armando Gonzalez-Villela, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Tucson on Nov. 29, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona.
Roman-Figueroa (aka Soldado), Roman-Flores, Bernal (aka Peque), and Salazar-Ballesteros (aka Catorce) are alleged members of Malas Maas, a transnational criminal organization prosecutors believe operates in the Santa Cruz and Mascarenas areas of Sonora, Mexico, with the consent of the Sinaloa cartel.
“These actions are the latest in a long line of the Justice Department’s efforts to dismantle violent cartels like Malas Maas and Sinaloa, piece by piece,” stated Attorney General Merrick Garland in a press statement.
“We will continue to target and prosecute the leaders and associates of the criminal groups responsible for poisoning the American people with fentanyl and endangering vulnerable migrants for profit.”
What crimes have suspected Mexican cartel members been charged with?
According to the indictment, Roman-Figueroa, Roman-Flores, Bernal, and Salazar-Ballesteros allegedly conspired to illegally transport migrants north of the US-Mexico border between December 2020 and November 2021.
From 2019 until 2023, Roman-Figueroa, Bernal, Salazar-Ballesteros, and Gonzalez-Villela were allegedly involved in a narcotics network involving fentanyl, marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
Roman-Figueroa, Roman-Flores, and Salazar-Ballesteros were also charged with laundering money from drug and people smuggling operations.
Furthermore, on February 3, 2021, Bernal reportedly displayed a handgun while trafficking methamphetamine.
“The facts alleged here demonstrate the breadth and diversity of the harmful actions committed by transnational criminal organizations,” said U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino in a statement. “This isn’t just about weapons, drugs, or illegal aliens. We look forward to showing the interconnectivity of these three related offenses in our ongoing efforts to protect and strengthen border communities.”