Law Enforcement Arrests Four on Indictment Alleging San Fernando Valley Crew Trafficked Cocaine, Methamphetamine and Fentanyl

LOS ANGELES – Four alleged members of a San Fernando Valley-based drug trafficking crew were arrested today on a 15-count federal grand jury indictment charging them with running an operation that sold cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.

The following four defendants were arrested this morning are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles:

  • Giselle Buraye, 23, a.k.a. “Giselle Haidy Dykhouse,” “Bandida,” “bandida.loka,” of Van Nuys;
  • Efren Meraz, Jr., 35, a.k.a. “Jr.,” “Junior,” of Sylmar;
  • Max Roman-Betancourt, 41, of Sunland; and
  • Esteban Armas, 36, of Panorama City.

Of the remaining three defendants, Oscar Alejandro Melendez, 50, a.k.a. “Ozzy,” “Oz,” of Van Nuys, and Robert Carlton Lavilette, 68, of Ventura, are expected to be arraigned in the coming days. Sarkis Kyurkchian, 40, a.k.a. “Z,” aka “Sam,” of North Hollywood, is a fugitive and being sought by law enforcement.

All seven defendants have been charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances. Buraye is also charged with possession and intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession and intent to distribute fentanyl, and distribution of fentanyl.

As part of this investigation, law enforcement seized 19 kilograms (42 pounds) of methamphetamine, 58 kilograms (128 pounds) of cocaine, 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of fentanyl powder, and two firearms. Law enforcement estimates that the value of the drugs seized exceeds $1 million. Throughout this case, more than $150,000 in U.S. currency has been seized.

During search warrants executed today at five locations in the San Fernando Valley, law enforcement seized more than 14 firearms, 2 pounds of methamphetamine, $153,000 in U.S. currency and various narcotics.

“Powerfully addictive drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine devastate families and communities,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “With these charges we have dismantled a drug trafficking organization that put profits over people’s lives. We will continue to do everything in our power to make sure every resident has an opportunity to live in safety.”

“Reducing violent crime in our community and throughout our country is the priority of ATF,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Bombardiere. “This case illustrates the importance of genuine relationships between law enforcement agencies to keep our communities safe. Stopping the illegal and highly dangerous flow of narcotics by this ring will make the Valley safer tonight.”

“The culmination of this investigation is an example of the strong partnerships built between federal and local law enforcement agencies focused on combatting drug and gun trafficking,” said DEA Ventura Resident Office, Resident Agent in Charge Ryan Olson. “Members of this criminal organization were involved in the distribution of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs that are poisoning our communities. DEA is committed to making our communities safer by removing violent offenders and dangerous drugs from the streets. We will continue to push forward and utilize all necessary resources to dismantle the largest criminal organizations negatively impacting our communities.”

According to the indictment returned on Tuesday, Buraye, Melendez, and Meraz spearheaded the operation by obtaining the fentanyl pills, methamphetamine, and cocaine. The trio, along with Kyurkchian, allegedly provided the drugs to Lavilette and Bentancourt, who then sold the drugs in the streets. Armas allegedly stored the narcotics and Buraye and Melendez allegedly sold the drugs to customers.

On April 14, 2021, Buraye and Mendez allegedly sold approximately 1,000 fentanyl pills, and were charged with aiding and abetting, and distribution of fentanyl.

In March 2022, Buraye allegedly sold more than 700 fentanyl pills.

A search warrant executed in May 2022 at Armas’s residence resulted in the seizure of 2,504 grams (approximately 5.5 pounds) of fentanyl powder, 57 kilograms (approximately 125 pounds) of cocaine, 10.92 kilograms (approximately 24 pounds) of methamphetamine and $152,602 in drug proceeds, according to court documents.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

If convicted of all charges, each defendant would face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; and the Los Angeles Police Department are investigating this matter. The Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force (L.A. IMPACT), IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office assisted in this investigation.

This case is the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, ATF, DEA, and IRS. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply. OCDETF uses an intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Assistant United States Attorney MiRi Song of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section is prosecuting this case.

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