Sheriff’s office makes more arrests in second phase of Operation Trailblazer

Joe Carmona, Sirjoe Carmona from Ivanhoe are arrested as a part of phase two of Operation Trailblazer which served 53 different search warrants over three days in Tulare and Los Angeles counties

VISALIA – Visalia police and a host of law enforcement agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced two weeks ago that they arrested three men in connection to a 2020 triple homicide as a part of Operation Trailblazer. They learned throughout the investigation that the homicides were only a piece of a much larger organization. And as of this week the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office reported even more arrests.

According to the Sheriff’s office, as part of phase two of Operation Trailblazer, detectives served additional search warrants in Tulare County and Los Angeles County during a three-day operation. This part of the investigation involved a nationwide drug trafficking ring. The primary suspects were identified as Joe Carmona, 30, and Sirjoe Carmona, 30, both of Ivanhoe. The Carmona brothers were not only involved with local southern gang members, but were also transporting and selling large amounts of marijuana in numerous states.

In collaboration with several federal and state agencies, detectives served 53 search warrants and seized 14,763 marijuana plants, 773 pounds of processed marijuana, 53 firearms, $358,000 in cash and $300,000 in assets during this five-month investigation.

California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward, Visalia Chief of Police Jason Salazar and Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced on Jan. 13 how large Operation Trailblazer was. Salazar stated that afternoon they had arrested Abraham Daniel Molina, 20, Cesar Lopez, 19, and Mark Aceves, 20, for the triple homicide at Golden West two years ago. All three suspects are Sureno gang members or associates of the street gang.

In all, 27 Surenos members and associates were arrested and 24 firearms were seized in the culmination of the four-month investigation. The operation included law enforcement officers from 16 different agencies who served 27 state search warrants, 18 state arrest warrants, five federal search warrants and four federal arrest warrants. Arrests were also made by law enforcement agencies in Oregon and Texas in connection with the investigation.

“An investigation that began with the tragic murder of three young people in Visalia led to law enforcement uncovering a drug and firearms conspiracy that reached from California to Texas and Mexico,” Bonta said. “While we cannot take away the grief and loss the Visalia community has felt as a result of these horrific and senseless murders, we can bring to account the people who committed these crimes.”

VPD detectives conducted 60 interviews, authored 90 search warrants, and examined more than 200 digital accounts to develop the leads that led up to the massive multi-agency operation.

“I am also very proud of the hard work and dedication of the Visalia Police Detectives who have worked so diligently on this case and to all of our law enforcement partners on this investigation for their contributions and resources to help bring justice to these families and to our community,” Salazar said.

Further investigation into the gang revealed that several members and associates were importing both stolen and lawfully purchased firearms from Texas, using proceeds from the sale of the illegal narcotics which were being trafficked into California from Mexico. The firearms were then sold to local gang members or smuggled into Mexico in exchange for more narcotics.

The Department of Justice partnered with local law enforcement in Texas, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California to seize several postal packages containing 18 firearms. The team also seized approximately 20 pounds of cocaine from suspects involved in the trafficking.

Over the course of the investigation, 37 arrests were made, 56 firearms were seized and 20 pounds of cocaine were intercepted from Sureno gang members. Police also said the efforts prevented at least five violent crimes planned by the street gang.

The gunman was identified as 20-year-old Abraham Daniel Molina, who has been charged with three counts of murder with special allegations of discharging a firearm for great bodily injury as he is believed to be the sole shooter, using a 40-caliber firearm. Cesar Lopez, 19, and Mark Aceves, 20, were also charged with three counts of murder for their roles in planning and carrying out the crimes, including carrying firearms. Killing three victims also carries the special allegation of a multiple murder.

“If convicted of the principal and all the allegations in the crime, each of these defendants faces a potential sentence of death,” Ward said.

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