California

Time’s up: Smugglers busted disguising meth as Aztec calendar wheels, feds say

Nine people in a California smuggling ring face charges they disguised meth as Aztec calendar wheels and other sculptures in a shipment to Hawaii, federal authorities say.
Nine people in a California smuggling ring face charges they disguised meth as Aztec calendar wheels and other sculptures in a shipment to Hawaii, federal authorities say. U.S. Attorney's Office

A timely bust led federal authorities to a Southern California smuggling ring shipping drugs disguised as Aztec decorations, including calendar wheels, to Hawaii, prosecutors say.

Authorities arrested eight people Tuesday who were indicted Oct. 10 by a grand jury in the scheme, reported the U.S. Attorney’s office. A ninth person charged in the indictment is already in custody.

The indictments include California residents Felix Salgado, 28, of Perris; German Bastidas Nunez, 46, of Moreno Valley; Moises Rey Avina, 39, of Santa Ana; Gary Wayne Minter, 55, of Victorville; and Stephen Dgewell Martin, 30, of Anaheim, prosecutors say.

Vaimanino Lee Pomele, 49, and his wife, Alejandra Pomele, 44, Fernando Caballero Rascon, 42, and James Arnold Borbon, 58, all of Garden Grove, California, also were indicted.

They’re accused of helping ship 2 pounds of methamphetamine to Hawaii via FedEx in January, then 5 pounds of meth inside bags of ground coffee in April and another 25 pounds of meth in July, reported the Los Angeles Times.

“Those drugs were part of a nearly 90-pound shipment that appeared to be colorful, decorative Mexican items, including replicas of the 500-year-old Aztec calendar stone,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

All three shipments were intercepted, reported the Los Angeles Times.

If convicted, they face at least five years in federal prison, and possibly decades more, prosecutors said.

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