AZ: Malas Manas Transnational Criminal Organization Leadership Indicted on Charges of Human Smuggling and Drug Trafficking

On Nov. 29, a federal grand jury in Tucson returned an 11-count indictment against Jorge Damian Roman-Figueroa, Luis Eduardo Roman-Flores, Manuel Jose Bernal, Joel Salazar-Ballesteros, and Jesus Armando Gonzalez-Villela, all of Mexico, for conspiracy to transport aliens; conspiracy to launder monetary instruments; conspiracy to distribute marijuana, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine; distribution of  marijuana, methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine; and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

“These actions are the latest in a long line of the Justice Department’s efforts to dismantle, piece-by-piece, violent cartels like Malasa Manas and Sinaloa,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “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.”

The indictment alleges that defendants Jorge Damian Roman-Figueroa, also known as Soldado, Luis Eduardo Roman-Flores, Manuel Jose Bernal, also known as Peque, and Joel Salazar-Ballesteros, also known as Catorce, are members of the Malas Manas Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO), operating in the Santa Cruz and Mascarenas areas of Mexico, with the permission of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The indictment alleges that these defendants operated a human smuggling organization as part of the Malas Manas TCO, trafficked drugs, and laundered the proceeds of both criminal activities. More specifically, the indictment alleges that beginning at an unknown time but including December 2020 and continuing through Nov. 12, 2021, defendants Roman-Figueroa, Roman-Flores, Bernal, and Salazar-Ballesteros conspired to transport aliens within the United States as part of the Malas Manas Transnational Criminal Organization.

The indictment alleges that between January 2019 and August 2023, Roman-Figueroa, Roman-Flores, and Salazar-Ballesteros conspired to launder the profits of alien smuggling and drug smuggling through the movement of monetary instruments from the United States to the Republic of Mexico.

The indictment further alleges that from 2019 until 2023 Roman-Figueroa, Bernal, Salazar-Ballesteros, and Gonzalez-Villela conspired to distribute and did distribute various quantities of fentanyl, marijuana, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Finally, the indictment alleges that Bernal brandished a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime involving methamphetamine on Feb. 3, 2021. The most serious of these crimes carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000,000.

“DEA’s top operational priority is to defeat the two criminal organizations responsible for the influx of fentanyl into the United States — the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels. As alleged in the indictment, these defendants worked with the Sinaloa Cartel to send fentanyl and other deadly drugs into the United States,” said Administrator Anne Milgram of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “Today’s actions demonstrate that DEA will relentlessly pursue every member and associate of these global criminal organizations, which threaten the public health, safety, and national security of the American people.”

“The facts alleged here illustrate the breadth and diversity of the harmful actions by transnational criminal organizations,” said U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino for the District of Arizona. “This case isn’t about just guns, or drugs, or aliens. In our continuing efforts to safeguard and bolster border communities, we look forward to establishing the interconnectedness of these three related crimes.”

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. This case also involves the OCDETF Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at

Homeland Security Investigations Nogales, DEA Tucson Division, and the FBI OCDETF Strike Force in Tucson conducted the investigation in this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rui Wang, Arturo Aguilar, and David Petermann for the District of Arizona worked on the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Petermann for the District of Arizona is prosecuted the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Press Release

Tags: DTO

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