U.S. prosecutors announced today that the last of 45 people convicted in federal court in San Jose in the wake of a 2011 law enforcement sweep centered on Gilroy has now been sentenced. Zanaida Perales was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Lowell Jensen in San Jose to three years in prison for using a communications facility to sell methamphetamine, said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. Perales pleaded guilty to the charge before Jensen in August. She was one of a total of 103 people arrested by federal, state and local officers in during a three-day law enforcement action in October 2011 that was dubbed Operation Garlic Press.
Eventually, a total of 118 people were charged by either federal prosecutors or the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office in connection with the probe, Haag said. Of that number, 46 were accused of federal crimes including methamphetamine distribution and illegal possession or sale of guns. The others were charged with state crimes such as auto theft, possession of stolen property and violation of state drug laws. Haag said 45 of the 46 federal defendants, including Perales, have pleaded guilty or been convicted and have been sentenced. The sentences ranged from six months to 20 years in prison. The remaining federal defendant, Adolpho Cornejo Vasquez, fled after being granted pretrial release on a $75,000 bond and is now a fugitive, Haag said. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute and distribution of methamphetamine.
The investigation began in 2010 with a multi-agency probe of crimes including auto theft and drug sales in Gilroy and later spread to other sites in Santa Clara County as well as to Alameda, San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. State Attorney General Kamala Harris said when announcing the arrests in 2011, “After noticing an increase in crime, Gilroy officials asked for help in dismantling a gang network that had set up shop in their town.” She said the majority of those arrested were alleged gang members with previous felony convictions. Undercover agents from the California Department of Justice bought guns, drugs and stolen cars during the 18-month investigation, Harris said. In addition to the state justice department, agencies participating in the probe included the Gilroy Police Department, California Highway Patrol and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
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