A man accused of selling and manufacturing meth for a California gang allied with the Mexican drug cartel La Familia Michoacana was arrested last week in Kent by the DEA.
The FBI says the case involves "members and associates of the La Familia Michoacán drug trafficking organization (or LFM) and gang members associated with Los Amables and Westside Pomona Malditos gang members." The gangsters also reportedly paid taxes to the feared Mexican Mafia.
According to court documents, Zarate was responsible for making meth at a stash house in Ontario, California, a suburb east of Los Angeles. The FBI says Barron would smuggle his meth from Mexico in "an unfinished or liquid state," then Zarate would transform it using a process called "re-crystallization" or "icing."
The indictment describes a wiretap conversation where Zarate tells Barron that some of the meth "came out in large chunks" when it was converted from liquid to crystal. Another conversation overheard by police has a different boss telling Zarate to set aside a pound of "pretty" meth for a valued customer.
The feds say much of the meth they encountered in the case was "99 percent pure," but court documents suggest the other one percent was some godawful stuff. The indictment describes a phone call where one customer complains that the gang's meth "tasted like detergent."
Zarate was arrested August 23 at a house in Kent. He is now being held in Seattle, awaiting transport to L.A. to face charges there. He is also being held on an immigration detainer by ICE.
Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI's L.A. office, says Zarate was "staying with a friend or associates or family," but there's currently no indication that he was making or selling meth locally.
"We're not alleging any Seattle-related activity," Eimiller says. "But we certainly haven't ruled out the possibility there was activity taking place in other regions."
There have, however, been several major meth busts recently in Seattle involving drugs shipped from Mexico and Southern California, including one last October connected to La Familia Michoacana.
Until recently, the cult-like La Familia was one of the most powerful drug cartels in Mexico. But a pair of major busts in the United States, the death and capture of two key leaders, and encroachments by rival cartels have crippled the organization. Various reports indicate that the group has regenerated as The Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) cartel, which shares the same twisted Christian ethos as its predecessor.
It's unclear from the court documents how tight the connection is between Zarate and La Familia, but his boss (and, judging from their respective names, relative) Barron apparently has extensive ties to organized crime south of the border. The indictment says Barron coordinated multi-kilo meth shipments from Mexico, and describes a phone call where Barron debates "how much in drug proceeds to leave in the United States to pay expenses, and how much in drug proceeds to send to Mexico for investment in Mexican real estate."
View the 63-page indictment in its entirety on the following page.