An investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the Tulare County High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Task Force (HIDTA) has resulted in the arrest of five local men and the seizure of dozens of pounds of potent and potentially deadly narcotics.
Six Arrests Total
A spokesperson for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said four men are facing federal charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute it, as well as conspiracy charges related to the drug possession and intent to distribute. The charges follow a series of arrests that happened Tuesday morning, March 22, in Exeter, Woodlake and Farmersville, as well as Las Vegas, NV. Arrested were Martel Rivera, 35, of Exeter, and Moses Rivera, 37, and Josh Rivera, 26, of Woodlake, and 29-year-old Tyler Rogers, also an Exeter resident.
Before the arrests, detectives identified Martel Rivera as a “supplier of high quantities of methamphetamines,” that were being sold across state lines in Las Vegas.
Also arrested were Adam Bennett, 33, of Woodlake on weapons and drug charges. Caleb Martinez, 36, also a Woodlake resident, was arrested for numerous outstanding warrants. Additional state and federal charges are pending for all the suspects, the TCSO spokesperson said.
Dozens of Pounds of Narcotics Seized
The mass of narcotics seized during the raids is unusually large for Tulare County, and even the nation. Taken during the first set of warrant services, officers in Las Vegas seized 50 pounds of methamphetamine and 2,000 fentanyl pills. Warrants served later in Exeter, Woodlake and Farmersville yielded an additional 17 pounds of methamphetamine, four pounds of heroin, 9.9 pounds of cocaine and 6.6 pounds of fentanyl.
Also seized during raids in Tulare County were more than 50 weapons, including 14 that were stolen last year during a burglary in Exeter.
The work leading to the arrest was performed by detectives from HIDTA, a task force composed of deputies of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, as well as officers from the Visalia, Farmersville, Woodlake and Porterville police departments. The HIDTA officers were joined by a special agent of the DEA.
The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact the TCSO at (559) 733-6218.
“It is possible more arrests could occur as a result of this investigation,” said Ashley Schwarm, public information officer for the TCSO.
Major Narcotics Busts Not Related
The bust announced in March is the second large seizure of guns and weapons in Tulare County this year.
In January, 22 people were arrested on various weapons and narcotics charges as the result of a multi-agency investigation. The suspects involved were allegedly shipping large quantities of methamphetamine to Texas in exchange for large-caliber handguns and rifles available freely in Texas but restricted or banned in California.
That drug and weapons ring was operated by the South Side Kings, a criminal gang long active in Tulare County, according to the TCSO. The January arrests resulted from a local investigation into a triple homicide on the campus of Golden West High School in Visalia on May 5, 2020, that revealed a deeper organized criminal network.
The newest arrests are not connected to those in January.
“This case is not related to the GWHS murder investigation,” Schwarm said.
In the South Side Kings bust, those allegedly involved used the US Post Office in Ivanhoe as their shipping point for dozens of packages of narcotics. The weapons were shipped directly to homes in the area. According to an investigation by the USPS, 62 parcels amounting to hundreds of pounds of shipped items were exchanged between addresses in Texas and addresses in the Ivanhoe area.