Undercover op unravels in Eastlake
The suburban community of Eastlake, 10 minutes from the San Ysidro border hides many secrets, since the days of the Arellano Felix brothers, when some of their main enforcers called the neighborhood home. A bit of an open secret among those in the know in San Diego, Eastlake and it's sister enclave Bonita, are manicured and sculpted gated communities, whose HOA and neatly trimmed lawns barley conceal it's bloody hidden side.
|Home where 'El Mandil' was held in 2007|
Things started to leak out, in 2004, when an anti major drug traffickers task force took down three Arellano Felix hitmen and traffickers, including Jaime Ocapmo, who lived in Bonita, in a large suburban mcmansion, with all the trappings of the quiet, luxurious American Dream. Except federal authorities allege he ran a kidnapping and enforcement crew from his home in San Diego, leaving dead bodies and abducted victims across Tijuana.
Also, Gustavo Rivera Martinez, El EP1, or El Lic, lived there with family for some time, growing up in the Bonita area, before relocating down south. Rivera Martinez was a confidante of Endenina Arellano Felix, and Bat Marquez, and coordinated the transshipment of tons of marijuana, and hundreds of kilos of cocaine. After the arrest of El Tigrillo, El Lic seemed poised to take then reins, when he was arrested near Los Cabos. Manuel Ivanivich Flores took control of his cell, until his arrest in 2009.
Power players and mostly their families dotted the cul de sacs of Eastlake and Bonita for years, making homes, livings, interior design and gym memberships, creating quite the community of soft targets. Los Pallios began to cut a blood and acid soaked path through the neighborhoods in 2004, bodies turned up on golf courses, toothpicks scattered around the corpse. Men quietly rented stables in San Ysidro, and disposed of bodies in acid on a quiet horse ranch. Kidnappings were conducted with vests and badges, automatic rifles and Los Pallios shot it out with the police on one occasion in 2004.
Homes were rented for kidnapping victims, women used as bait to ensnare macho and unsuspecting traffickers linked to the Arellanos, as Los Pallios sought their vengence and fortune, through kidnapping, torture and murder. The son of Don Balas, 'Balitas' was lifted up, and returned for 1 million. Eduardo Tostado Gonzalez, 'El Mandil' was kidnapped, beaten, and thrown in a closet. His wife, per his instructions, did what few did, called the FBI.
Years after Los Pallios unraveled in major indictments and splashy rescues and raids, a calm has returned to Eastlake and Bonita, though little has changed, except the power players and their loyalties. However, there was a tear in the facade in mid June, when an undercover up unraveled at a nondescript shopping mall at 2300 Proctor Valley Road.
Members of a task force, including Homeland Security Investigations, were meeting with a group of marijuana traffickers to either set up a buy, conduct a purchase, or a simple meet and greet. At around 2:00 PM local media outlets were fl
ooded with news of a shooting and widespread manhunt across the area. Law enforcement cordoned off the area, brought in dogs, helicopters, local back up, and captured 5 suspects, one later that night, at the San Ysidro border.
The suspects were charged in state court, with various charges relating to the purchase and sale and conspiracy to sell marijuana, likely in ton or half ton quantities. Their friend died at the hospital later from his injuries. Jesus Rios, Rafael Moratya Aguilar, Jovani Bernal Moreno, Sergio Arias Ibarra are the 20 somethings who were arrested. Runners and reps for their more shadowy employers, whose songs are likely known to many residents.
Details were and are scarce, but apparently the men who were targeted for the undercover op tried to rob the Homeland Security undercover team, (likely involving two agents and multiple CI's) and the agent drew his weapon and killed him. There were reports of a taser, stun gun, being involved.
The op was likely just a small part of a long term case or investigation being constructed in the whispery suburb of so many secrets, so many leading into Tijuana, and further south east. The corridos are different now, the license plates a new color. The shooting was a brief glitch in a system that has long been in place, sign of things to come, perhaps....perhaps not.
Sources: UT San Diego, 10 News