San Bernardino Sun and L.A. Impact
Five people were arrested and nearly 700 pounds of cocaine seized in what officials on Thursday called the largest cocaine bust in the state in recent memory, spanning from the Inland Empire to Los Angeles County.
Officials seized 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of cocaine during a traffic stop in Victorville on Tuesday evening, which led them to a house in the 11400 block of Charlesworth Road in Santa Fe Springs. That’s where investigators seized 256 kilos (570 pounds) of cocaine on Wednesday.
Three people were arrested during the traffic stop and two were arrested at the home in Santa Fe Springs, all with alleged ties to the Sinaloa Cartel, an international drug-trafficking and organized crime group based in Mexico.
This is one of the biggest ones I’ve seen in many years,” said Carlos Mendoza, deputy director for the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task (IMPACT) Force.
The bust was the culmination of a month-long investigation by L.A. IMPACT, a multi-agency team made up of officers and agents from numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Eligio Alvarez Manriquez, 24, Jose Manuel Lopez, 22, and Cintia Ferro Barazza, 24, all of Victorville, were arrested Tuesday and Eddie Perez, 41, (at left) and Jose Garcia Samano, 39, (below right)both of Santa Fe Springs, were arrested Wednesday, Mendoza said.
“These people we arrested are very well trusted” in the cartel, Mendoza said. “You don’t just give away 300 kilos to someone to hold on to, so these people have good connections in the cartel.”
Detectives with the task force were monitoring the Santa Fe Springs area when they witnessed a drug
exchange in a strip mall Tuesday, Mendoza said.
exchange in a strip mall Tuesday, Mendoza said.
They followed a vehicle and California Highway Patrol officials pulled it over on Highway 395 in Victorville, near the Hesperia border in San Bernardino County. Authorities found about 110 pounds of cocaine inside the vehicle. The three adults were booked into San Bernardino County jail on $5 million bail and a child was placed in protective custody.
“From there he (the dealer) would have distributed it to other lower-level dealers,” Mendoza said. “So it could have gone anywhere in the country.”
The traffic stop led investigators to a home in Victorville but no drugs were found, he said. However, further information pointed officials to the Santa Fe Springs home, where the 563 pounds of cocaine was found in the garage. In addition to the two adults booked into L.A. County jail on $5 million bail, one woman was released and three children were taken into protective custody, Mendoza said.
Lopez was charged with possession with the intent to sell and transport of a controlled substance; Manriquez was charged with possession with the intent to sell and transportation of cocaine; Barazza was charged with possession with the intent to sell. Perez and Samano were charged with possession with the intent to sell.
The cocaine found in Santa Fe Springs and Victorville had a combined street value of $35 million, Mendoza said.
The cocaine has been linked to the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, however, Department of Justice spokeswoman Michelle Gregory said she does not believe those arrested are members of the cartel; instead she believes they are associates of the group.
“It’s never typically directly the cartel,” she explained. “These people that were bringing the drugs up in the U.S. appear to have ties to the cartel.”
On Thursday, residents in the area said there was little trouble at the property and few signs of the clandestine activities allegedly taking place inside what officials called a “stash pad.”
Several neighbors said the home had been vacant for a year, possibly in foreclosure, but that two men had moved into the house about two or three months ago.
There was remodeling going on at the property, so residents didn’t think much of it. They said the residents of the home kept to themselves. One neighbor said he saw someone who played with their children there.
“I’m glad I didn’t go over” to meet them, said Maria Frias, who has lived on the street for four years. “After hearing what was going on there.”
Manriquez, Lopez and Barazza are scheduled to appear at Victorville Superior Court at 12:30 p.m. today. Perez and Samano are scheduled to appear at Downey Municipal Court at 8:30 a.m. today.In Court Today:
Two men arrested at what authorities called a Santa Fe Springs “stash pad” for an international drug-trafficking cartel claimed innocence in a courtroom on Friday.
A judge will have to review the source of any bail money submitted on behalf of Eddie Perez, 41, and Jose Garcia Samano, 39, who were being held on $5 million bail each.
Judge David Fields set a preliminary hearing for the pair on June 17
The two men were wearing blue short-sleeve shirts and pants but were not handcuffed as they casually talked to each other, another defendant and an attorney before their arraignment at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center on Friday afternoon. Both men used Spanish-language interpreters during the hearing.
Eligio Alvarez Manriquez, 24, Jose Manuel Lopez, 22, and Cintia Ferro Barazza, 24, were scheduled to be arraigned Friday at a Los Angeles court but district attorney’s officials could not verify that late Friday afternoon.
District attorney’s spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said she did not know when Manriquez, Lopez and Barazza would be arraigned.
Perez and Samano live in Santa Springs while the three other suspects are from Victorville.
Perez’s attorney, Guadalupe Valencia, who was represented in court by attorney Jason Ronis, noted his client pleaded not guilty but declined to comment on the case because he hasn’t seen the evidence.