BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Nine defendants in a fentanyl trafficking and money laundering conspiracy based in Jefferson County were charged in a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday, U.S. attorney Prim Escalona announced.

The indictment alleges that these members of the ring were affiliated with the Kalisco New Generation Cartel. According to the indictment, Juan Franciso Castaneda, Jose Lopez Flores and Cheryl Johnson are charged with conspiring to distribute 400 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl. The maximum penalty for this charge is life in prison.

Karol Carlota Del Castillo-Cardozo, Preston Omar Chatman, Bryant Lamar Reynolds and Franciso Del Castillo are charged with the conspiring to distribute 40 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl. That charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Castaneda, Castillo-Cardozo, Reynolds, Chatman, Castillo, Flores and Johnson are also charged with distribution of fentanyl. Castaneda, Castillo-Cardozo, Blanca Iris Ozuna and Juan Fidencio Lerma Gomez are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering of drug trafficking proceeds. All the alleged crimes took place between March 2022 and March 2023.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit money laundering is 20 years in prison. The indictment does seek a money judgment for $700,000. The maximum penalty for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance is a life sentence.

“The indictment represents a collaborative effort between multiple federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to combat the scourge of fentanyl trafficking and organized crime in our communities,” Escalona said in a release. “The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force remains committed to stopping the flow of dangerous drugs into our neighborhoods by disrupting and dismantling criminal enterprises.”

Castaneda and Reynolds are serving life sentences for murder in state prison facilities. According to public records, Castaneda pleaded guilty to a multi-homicide in Shelby County in 2008 in which five people were murdered over a cartel debt.

The DEA and Homeland Security Investigations investigated the case and used assistance from multiple other agencies.