News from Around the Americas | February 2007
|Anaheim Bust Breaks Brown Heroin Record|
Cindy Carcamo, Erik Ortiz, Denisse Salazar & Madia Javid-Yazdi - Orange County Register
Drug enforcement officials say the seizure is the largest of its kind in California history. Six suspects, four from Mexico, are arrested.
|A customs agent displays bricks of heroin seized in Anaheim during a bust this week. (Rose Palmisano/The Register)|
The working-class neighborhood near Anaheim Plaza was once known for drug dealing and crime.
It was a place where out-of-town buyers and out-of-state dealers did business on a regular basis during the '70s and '80s.
In the past two decades, however, the neighbors and the city had worked to clean it up.
Drug dealing still took place from time to time. It was no surprise Friday to neighbors who heard about a recent drug seizure.
But they were taken aback after hearing that the Wednesday bust at a home in the 1400 block of Chevy Chase Drive found enough Mexican brown heroin to make it the largest seizure of its kind in California history.
Federal and drug officials confiscated 121 pounds of heroin, 34 pounds of marijuana and 3 pounds of what is believed to be methamphetamine, along with $3,500 in cash stuffed inside closets and cabinets in the home and garage.
Agents arrested four Mexican nationals and two Anaheim women.
Four boys and a girl, all 10 and younger, were also at the home. They are now with child protective services.
The heroin alone would have been worth as much as $6 million on the street, officials announced Friday in a news conference.
The heroin would have provided 700,000 doses ready to be injected.
"This would've been out in the street affecting 700,000 people," said William J. Hayes, assistant special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "You can see the significant impact this would've had."
Officials said they didn't disclose the information about the drug bust earlier because they believed it would jeopardize their investigation.
It started Wednesday afternoon when a suspicious-looking vehicle tipped off border agents, officials said. Agents later determined the vehicle carried five bundles of heroin.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents alerted immigration enforcement agents, who followed the vehicle from the border to the Anaheim home and joined U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Anaheim and Irvine police to raid the home.
The children at the home were sleeping when officials made the bust.
An Anaheim police helicopter hovered above the home as agents, some with dogs, handcuffed the suspects and searched the home.
Police arrested Luis Alcantar-Zepeda, 28; Jose Casares-Macias, 22; Rosendo Churape-Cardenas, 37; and Jairo Ortiz-Diaz, 26, all of Michoacán, Mexico, officials said.
The children's mothers, Rosa Soto, 26, and Jacqueline Pimentel, 31, both of Anaheim, were also arrested, officials said.
The relationships between the women and the men are unclear, officials said. All face felony possession with intent to distribute charges and could get life in prison sentences, if convicted.
"These people were significant players in this organization," Hayes said.
It's unclear, however, how large the organization is and whether it has links to any large Mexican drug cartels.
Agents are investigating whether the organization had links to Michoacán, where all of the male suspects are from.
The heroin's purity is also unclear, and the drug will undergo testing that will ultimately determine its potency and even the origins of the poppies from which it was produced.
Investigators say the material that is believed to be methamphetamine crossed the border already packaged. Officials have seen a trend of packaged methamphetamine coming from south of the border, where ingredients, such as ephedrine, are easier to obtain than they are in the U.S., which has laws restricting sales of potential ingredients.
Local officials said they didn't recognize the branding on the packaging – a smiling sun with rays. Some organizations have used devils and stars in the past.
"I can tell you there's more than six people involved in this," Hayes said. "This is obviously a major investigation."
On Friday, neighbors recalled the bad days of crime and drug dealing. Since then, the neighborhood went quiet, they said. Anaheim police said they have received only 25 calls for service since 2005.
Neighbors said they didn't know the men who lived at the house. They were the latest tenants of the one-story rental home, they added.
Alicia Martinez, a 20-year Chevy Chase Drive resident who lives next door to the home, said she warned the owner last year that she was suspicious about the tenants going in and out of the house.
They had used newspapers to cover the front windows, she said.
"I told the owner there's something weird going on in there," Martinez said.
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