Three charged in large-scale drug operation in South Valley - Albuquerque Journal

Three charged in large-scale drug operation in South Valley


From left, Danny Baca, Crystal Kelley and Manuel Young. (Source: Metropolitan Detention Center)

Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal

When the FBI seized a wheelbarrow of cash, millions of dollars worth of drugs and a small arsenal from alleged drug trafficker Jesse Young in September – his older brother and the brother’s girlfriend reportedly took the helm of the business.

The new management was short-lived.

On Thursday agents raided several homes and a storage unit in Albuquerque’s South Valley, seizing drugs, guns and hundreds of thousands in cash from Manuel “Ike” Young and Crystal Kelley’s burgeoning operation.

After Young, 44, and Kelley, 34, surrendered from one of the homes, a rundown adobe near Coors and Arenal, Young reportedly told agents the place was abandoned and everything inside “was there when they moved in.”

Inside, agents found $250,000 in cash, 28 guns and a bulletproof vest.

Danny “Scrappy” Baca was also arrested in connection with the drug operation and another man, 42-year-old Christopher Otero, was arrested at one of the homes on a state felony warrant.

An FBI agent talks to a New Mexico State Police Officer during an early morning FBI Violent Gang Task Force operation in Albuquerque’s South Valley on Thursday, February 2, 2023. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Manuel Young’s little brother Jesse, 40, who went by “Lobo,” is an alleged Sureños gang member who partnered with cartels and prison gangs – amassing millions of dollars by selling fentanyl and methamphetamine while ordering hits on informants.

Kelley’s sibling, however, may be even more infamous.

Her sister is Jessica Kelley, arguably one of the most well-known criminals in New Mexico’s history for her part in the horrific death of 10-year-old Victoria Martens in 2016.

The raids targeted four homes where Baca, Kelley, Young and his family lived and a storage unit that Manuel Young allegedly used to store drugs in. The properties were all within a 4-mile radius.

Aside from the home the couple was found in, agents seized six guns and an unknown amount of meth in the raids.

According to search warrant affidavits filed in U.S. District Court:

In September Jesse Young and four others were arrested in a bust that netted $2 million, 1 million fentanyl pills and 142 pounds of meth – possibly the largest seizure in state history.

In October a confidential informant, a convicted murderer who has been paid $17,000 to help the FBI, tipped off agents that Manuel Young had taken over his brother’s operation.

The names had changed but, according to authorities, the game had not: two Albuquerque gangs working together to bring cartel-sourced meth and fentanyl to street level dealers.

Agents said Manuel Young, a member of the Echo Park Sureños, teamed up with Baca, a West Side Loco, to distribute drugs to gang members from Los Padillas, Syndicato de Nuevo Mexico and Burquenos.

Both Baca and Young are reportedly heavy drug users and Young didn’t start selling large quantities of drugs until his brother’s arrest. Kelley is not a gang member but a career criminal featured in “an A&E documentary” who helped Young run the operation, according to the affidavits.

Kelley was “very involved” and would run Young’s drug operation when Young was “strung out on dope.” Agents said she “has a reputation of being fierce and was ‘not to be messed with.'”

The informant told agents Young was known to be “very paranoid” and kept drugs in a storage unit at Extra Space Storage near Central and Coors.

The charges against the couple stemmed from an undercover buy last month.

On Jan. 26 the informant called Baca and asked to buy 2,000 fentanyl pills for $4,000 and Baca requested to be picked up. Baca warned the informant to not go through Young without him, relating a story where a woman was humiliated for trying to do so – having her phone taken and made to stand in the cold.

The informant, wearing a recording device, drove Baca to Young’s home and Baca, becoming paranoid, “correctly pointed out” two FBI surveillance vehicles in the area. While Kelley and Young went to get the fentanyl, Baca told the informant about recent robberies he had done, wanting to rob an armored car, his own gang upbringing and how the younger generation of West Side Loco members “were weak.”

Agents watched Kelley and Young go to the storage unit a few blocks away, fill up gas and pick up a pizza from Dion’s drive-thru. Back at the house, Kelley handed the informant a pizza on top of some plates and, between the plates, the bags of fentanyl.

Baca asked the informant if he could have some of the pills and was denied, the informant said he would “take care of Baca later” and handed him the pizza while pocketing the pills.

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