Added by on 2012-03-09

MINNEAPOLIS – Hennepin County prosecutors announced charges against 20 men and women Friday afternoon in connection with what is being called a one of the most prolific methamphetamine rings in the Upper Midwest.

Local police and federal agents recovered nearly 17 pounds of meth with a street value of over $500,000.

Spokesman Chuck Laszewski says the charges are as a result of an eight month investigation called “Operation High Noon” by the FBI, St. Paul and Minneapolis police.

Authorities say Koua “Jimmy” Yang of Minneapolis and Jose Salgado of St. Paul, both 32 years old, were major distributors in the ring.

Laszewski says Yang and Salgado were supplied by Felix “Short” Lopez-Martinez, 23, of Cottage Grove, and 37-year-old Pedro “Peli” Ayala-Levya of Brooklyn Park.

In February, state troopers pulled over 33-year-old Daniel Samorano of Brooklyn Park. Samorano, who was driving back to Minnesota from California, had more than nine pounds of meth in a hidden compartment in his car.

An informant told the FBI that Lopez-Martinez and Ayala-Levya were associates of the La Familia Michoacana Mexican drug cartel.

Thirteen of the 20 charged are in custody. In addition to those already named, the following are in custody:

• Mario Alberto Castro, 28, Brooklyn Park
• Fong Meng Yang AKA Lucky, 27, Minneapolis
• Victor Alfonso Hernandez AKA Scarface, 25, Maplewood
• Kao Xiong AKA Milk, 27, Minneapolis
• Jerry Vang, 34, Brooklyn Center
• Jonathan Steven Schneider, 27, St. Cloud
• Xue Her AKA Al Bundy, 35, St. Paul
• Kong Meng Vang AKA Shot, 27, Minneapolis

The following were charged but remain at-large:

• Phong Yang AKA Fish, 27, Minneapolis
• Vinai Xiong, 33, Eau Claire, Wis.
• Paul David Vonrueden, 42, Anoka
• Foua Xiong, 26, Eden Prairie
• Elizabeth Catherine Gunderson AKA Mo, 37, Crystal
• Evalyn Lia Bheaanu, 30, St. Paul
• Jacqueline Joy Potts AKA Jeanie, 50, Cedar

Investigators say the drug ring was operating on a national scale. It was centered in the Twin Cities, but also included distribution hubs in Duluth, St. Cloud and Eau Claire, Wis.