ARIZONA NEWS

Alleged members of violent cartel indicted in Arizona on human smuggling, drug charges

Dec 18, 2023, 8:00 PM

Photos show the Malas Mañas transnational criminal organization logo - a sun-shaped emblem with a ...

Photos supplied by the U.S. Treasury Department show the Malas Mañas transnational criminal organization logo and slogan on merchandise. SQLD stands for "solo que lo dudes," which means "only that you doubt it." (U.S. Department of Treasury Photo)

(U.S. Department of Treasury Photo)

PHOENIX – Multiple alleged members of a violent cartel have been indicted on human smuggling and drug trafficking charges in Arizona, according to federal authorities.

Jorge Damian Roman-Figueroa, Luis Eduardo Roman-Flores, Manuel Jose Bernal, Joel Salazar-Ballesteros and Jesus Armando Gonzalez-Villela, all Mexican citizens, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Tucson on Nov. 29, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona announced on Friday.

Roman-Figueroa (aka Soldado), Roman-Flores, Bernal (aka Peque) and Salazar-Ballesteros (aka Catorce) are alleged members of Malas Mañas, a transnational criminal organization prosecutors say operates with the permission of the Sinaloa cartel in the Santa Cruz and Mascarenas areas of Sonora, Mexico.

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

What crimes are alleged Mexican cartel members accused of committing?

Roman-Figueroa, Roman-Flores, Bernal and Salazar-Ballesteros allegedly conspired to illegally transport migrants north of the U.S.-Mexico border between December 2020 and November 2021, according to the indictment.

Roman-Figueroa, Bernal, Salazar-Ballesteros and Gonzalez-Villela allegedly were part of a drug ring involving fentanyl, marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine from 2019 until 2023.

Roman-Figueroa, Roman-Flores and Salazar-Ballesteros also were accused of laundering the profits from the drug and human smuggling enterprises.

In addition, Bernal allegedly brandished a firearm while trafficking methamphetamine on Feb. 3, 2021.

“The facts alleged here illustrate the breadth and diversity of the harmful actions by transnational criminal organizations,” U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino said in the release. “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.”

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Alleged members of violent cartel indicted in Arizona on human smuggling, drug charges