By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — A heroin-delivery service orchestrated from two Orange County-based call centers has been busted by federal authorities.

A total of 19 people have been charged in connection with “Operation Horse Caller.” Federal authorities say the operation distributed at least $2 million worth of heroin through the call centers  in Orange County that took phone orders for deliveries. Twelve of those defendants were arrested Tuesday, but seven remain at large. Four are believed to be in Mexico.

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(credit: CBS)

The indictment alleges that 43-year-old Julio Cesar Martinez, aka “Primo,” of Riverside, and his brother, 44-year-old Victor Martinez, aka “Hector,” of Hemet, imported the drugs into Orange County from Mexico via couriers between March 2017 and April 2021. The narcotics were then distributed by 53-year-old Maricela Guerrero, aka “Carla,” and 34-year-old Marla Portillo Cordova, aka “Yvette,” both of Santa Ana, who took orders by phone for the heroin, then directed others to deliver it to buyers and collect payment for a cut of the proceeds, according to federal prosecutors.

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Authorities say the suspects used coded language referencing Mexican food when selling the drugs.

Prosecutors further allege that the Martinez brothers tried to hide the money they made by depositing it into bank accounts held by Cordova and others, who went on to break up the deposits under $10,000 to evade federal reporting requirements. Victor Martinez also allegedly directed Cordova and others to spread the money out between bank accounts held by family members and an escrow account used to buy a property in Hemet for his benefit.

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The 12 defendants in custody are scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court on Tuesday afternoon.