12 indicted in Mexican drug trafficking scheme

? A dozen people accused of orchestrating the shipment of thousands of pounds of cocaine and marijuana from Mexico into the Kansas City area have been indicted on federal drug charges, authorities announced Thursday.

The targets of the indictment loaded narcotics into trucks, cars and trailers in Mexico, crossed the border at El Paso, Texas, then proceeded to Kansas City for distribution, said U.S. Atty. Eric Melgren. The scheme went on from around the beginning of 2002 through last month, he said.

Eleven of the 12 have been arrested and were due to make their first court appearances Thursday. The 12th, a Las Vegas man, was still at large.

“We consider this to be a significant disruption and dismantling of a drug operation,” Melgren said.

The indictment was filed by a Wichita grand jury more than two weeks ago, but was kept sealed until authorities completed searches and arrests.

All told, officials say the suspects conspired to distribute about 24,798 pounds of marijuana and about 644 pounds of cocaine, all top-grade. Authorities seized more than $16 million in cash, various vehicles used in the operation, and properties in Overland Park and Merriam and Raytown, Mo.

Among the property seized was Anaco Transmission, a car repair business in Merriam used as a front for the drug ring, Melgren said. A Stilwell, Kan., turf farm, which prosecutors said was unwittingly used in the trafficking, was not taken.

The bust, nicknamed Operation Soda-Pop, involved the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Attorney’s Offices, Internal Revenue Service and local police departments and was hailed by those groups as an example of interagency cooperation.

Charged in the scheme were Jacinto Hernandez, 39, Eduardo Agramon-Castro, 36, Jesus Saucedo-Ramirez, 38, Maria Hernandez, 36, Sigifredo Paez, 31, Jesus Castaneda, 39, and Germain Devia, 28, all of Kansas City, Kan.; Gerardo Reyes-Lopez, 42, of Raytown, Mo.; Bill Joe Antle, 37, of Overland Park, Kan.; Lewis Lamonte Smith, 39, of Las Vegas; Dennis Goyer, 40, of Stilwell, Kan.; and Daniel Moreno, 29, of El Paso, Tex.

If convicted, each could face 10 years to life in prison.