drugs

Five charged with heroin dealing in death of former West Salem High School student

Five Mexican citizens today face heroin distribution charges that resulted in the April 16 death of a Keizer woman, federal prosecutors announced late this morning.

The five: Sergio Quezada Lopez, 33, Braulio Acosta Mendoza, 34, Jose Romo Gonzalez, 22, Jose Aldan Soto, 30, and Julian Hernandez Castillo, 31.

All five defendants are citizens of Mexico and are currently the subjects of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers on their custody status.

Lopez is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Acosta today at 1:30 p.m. in federal court in Portland, Amanda Marshall, U. S. Attorney for the District of Oregon said in a prepared news release.

The federal arraignments of the remaining defendants are likely to be scheduled in the near future, Marshall said.

Laurin Putnam, 21, was found dead at her residence in Keizer from an apparent heroin overdose. In four days following her death, investigators made numerous arrests and conducted searches in Washington County, Multnomah County, Marion County, and Vancouver, Wash. Authorities seized more than four pounds of heroin and methamphetamine and cocaine, two guns, and more than $20,000 in cash, authorities said.

In addition to heroin distribution, the five face conspiracy to distribute heroin resulting in death, Marshall said.

Those who have a previous felony drug conviction and are convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin resulting in death face a minimum prison term of life with no possibility of release, and up to a $20 million fine. For those who have no prior felony drug conviction the minimum term is 20 years and up to a $10 million fine.

Keizer Police Chief Marc Adams said in the prepared statement that Putnam’s was the fourth heroin overdose death in Keizer this year.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes said the investigation followed the heroin supply chain from the victim’s arm to the doorstep of an out of state source of supply.

Also involved in the investigation were Keizer and Salem, police, the Marion County Sheriff’s, Oregon State Police; the Washington County Interagency Narcotics Team (WIN); the Portland Police Bureau; the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force; the Oregon Department of Justice; and, the Portland based Highway Interdiction Team.

 

Welcome to Heroin City

"Jimmy," a drug dealer in his mid twenties, injects himself with heroin in the bathroom of a West Burnside Street tavern.
On my first attempt at buying heroin in Portland I was told to come back in an hour.
I'm a reasonably clean cut, 34-year-old white man with one wrist tattoo, no drug contacts; a photographer, not an addict.

Within five minutes at O'Bryant Square downtown, I had sidled up to a gaunt middle-aged man, and asked if he knew where I could find some "black" -- a street name for black tar heroin.  "The natives might be back in an hour," he said.  I'd come back in an hour.

Ten minutes later, I approached a young man on the sidewalk across the street from Pioneer Courthouse Square who told me he had just been ripped off to the tune of $15. I asked him for black. He said I should follow him around the corner. But then his girlfriend came up behind me, asking to see my track marks, accusing me of being a cop.


• Editor’s note: First-person narration by Christopher Onstott, story by Peter Korn
 

I had the impression that if she hadn't come by I would have had my black tar heroin, or at least a number.

That's the goal. Little pieces of paper with suppliers' phone numbers are treated like currency on the street. A dedicated addict will pay up to $100 to secure one, and always keeps two or three on hand.

Back to O'Bryant Square, where casually standing around with a group of street kids brought in offers of meth, crack cocaine and pot, but no heroin. Odd, since heroin use in Portland has skyrocketed in the last year.

There were 84 heroin overdose deaths in Multnomah County last year, up from 57 in 2009. A growing body of federal data show that in the span of a few years, Portland has become one of the nation's top cities for heroin use.

Portland is awash in heroin, and it's killing us. That's what the numbers say.

Criminal justice officials and addiction treatment providers say that the numbers only tell half the story. Heroin, they say, has moved from a drug used mainly by the poor to one increasingly used by the middle class.

More specifically, it is being used by young men and women younger than 35 who are looking to move beyond the highs they've experienced from prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin.  All this is made possible, experts say, because heroin is incredibly cheap and easy to obtain here.

Still, I'd been out on the street for close to two hours and I hadn't scored.

Weary of role-playing with street kids, I headed home, stopping first for a drink at the Plaid Pantry on Southeast Burnside Street. Sipping my Gatorade in the parking lot, I hardly noticed the young white man who walked up and asked, "How's it going?"

"Not bad," I answered with a shrug.  He countered with, "Wanna buy some bud, bro?"  "No thanks," I answered. Then I asked, "Got any black?"

That's how easy it was to buy heroin on a Wednesday afternoon in Portland. My new friend told me he lived downtown, but his dealer on 82nd Avenue "gets the best (stuff)."

I explained to him that I was on my way to a tattoo appointment, which was true, and couldn't come with him now. I offered $20 for his dealer's number. The number would lead to a call, a meeting place -- often a MAX station -- and the buy.

Cell phone numbers were exchanged, with the promise of an extra $5 for the contact number. After my tattoo appointment, an exchange of text messages, then a series of very fast phone calls setting up a meeting at a quick market on Southeast Foster Road, where I met my new friend and a scruffy companion, maybe in his late 30s, who I took to be his supplier.

My friend tried to hand me a small bag of black tar heroin. I say I need to use the cash machine inside. Somehow, I've got to tell this guy I'm not a heroin user.

He follows me, basically breathing down my neck, no personal space. The machine spits out $20 and I hand him the money. He starts to hand me the bag, but I deflect him.

He gives me a look somewhere between confused and surprised. But thankfully, he doesn't give me a look that says I'm a cop who has tricked him.

He heads back outside to talk to his companion. I explain that I'm a journalist, not a user. Would he talk to me?

He looks at me and says, "Oh my God, that's so f....ing cool."

Ten minutes later, we're in my car, as Jimmy (not his real name) explains how he went from being a University of Oregon athlete so afraid of needles that he had to turn away from movie screens whenever a scene showed a needle going into someone's arm, to a daily heroin user who gets by dealing and occasionally panhandling.

I agree to drop Jimmy at his home in Northwest Portland. But first, a stop at a pub on Northwest 21st Avenue where he uses the bathroom to inject $10 worth of heroin into his arm.

Along the I-5 corridor

People who deal with the local drug scene --from law enforcement officers to drug counselors -- continually use the phrase "perfect storm" to explain Portland's skyrocketing rates of heroin use and overdose.

According to reports from the U.S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials interviewed by the Tribune, meth became harder to produce in Mexico, so the cartels and their gangs turned to producing heroin. Needing a distribution route into the western U.S., the Mexican gangs chose the Interstate 5 corridor.

Meanwhile, according to local addiction treatment providers, a different set of circumstances has been creating a growing demand for heroin in Portland. Oregon has always been an easy place to legally obtain prescriptions for painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, many of which ended up on the black market.

In recent years, studies ranked Oregon somewhere in the top half dozen or so states for abuse of prescription drugs. One 2007 federal study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that Oregon had more youth painkiller abusers than any other state.

In the past year, state and county health officials, hoping to reduce the number of people becoming addicted to prescription painkillers, changed their guidelines, making it harder for physicians to prescribe painkillers. In addition, drug companies in 2010 changed the composition of OxyContin, making it almost impossible for addicts to crush and inhale it for their preferred jolt.

With prescription painkillers harder to get through local doctors and a favorite painkiller almost worthless to hard-core addicts, the supply of black market prescription painkillers became scarcer, and the price headed up.

Pain sufferers who had been dependent on legal drugs to get through the day, as well as recreational users, needed a new supply. And there was heroin, cheaper than the prescription drugs, plentiful and potent.

As outlined in documents from the U.S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center, the Mexican cartels were producing an excess supply of heroin and could sell it cheap, so cheap that local distributors didn't need to cut it in order to make a profit. Instead, they could afford to sell it more pure, and potent, potentially hooking more addicts. But some users, not knowing they might have to scale down how much they injected, died of overdoses.

Dr. Gary Oxman, Multnomah County's public health officer, says he's been expecting the current surge in heroin overdoses. In his view, heroin and prescription painkiller use in Portland are inextricably intertwined.

"I think we probably have these two epidemics fueling each other," Oxman says.

The new wave

Portland has been "a heroin city" for decades, according to Oxman, but until recently the cost of the drug has been high. The new set of circumstances -- cheap Mexican heroin available at the same time county physicians have begun cutting patients off from prescription painkillers -- has changed the fundamental dynamic of heroin in Portland, he believes.

"The heroin got cheaper," Oxman says. "I assume that's not an accidental move on the part of the cartels. I think basically they went from a low-volume, high-price distribution model, to a high-volume, low-price distribution model."

Typically, $10 or $15 will buy enough heroin for an injection that will last all day, according to heroin users interviewed by the Tribune. Prescription pills that will get an addict through the day run about $1 a milligram on the street, so a serious user might have to spend $50 or more to stay high all day, the users say.

Oxman's staff has been studying the overdose problem, even interviewing heroin addicts to get a better handle on what is happening on the street. In an annual survey of people using the county's needle exchange service, 43 percent of heroin users said they became hooked on prescription drugs first. And most of those people were younger, rather than middle-aged or older addicts.

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin says many in the "new wave" of heroin addicts started out stealing painkillers from family medicine cabinets or trading for them in schoolyards, made possible because physicians and dentists for years have been prescribing more than individuals needed.

"There's this huge class of people who probably wouldn't have used heroin in their entire lives if they had not become addicted to prescription pills," says Lufkin, who adds that virtually every heroin addict he's interviewed -- a number in the hundreds -- started on pills.

The county overdose statistics back up what nationwide studies have indicated -- heroin has exploded in Portland during the past two years, while its use has remained stable or risen slightly in most large cities outside Oregon.

But physicians across the country have been over-prescribing pain pills, Oxman and Lufkin acknowledge. And while West Coast heroin arrives almost exclusively from Mexico along the Interstate 5 corridor, Portland is not the only city on I-5. Yet there are more heroin deaths each year in Multnomah County than in Seattle's much more populous King County.

One of the most eye-opening studies in recent years comes out of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, which tallied drug use data for inmates entering county jails in 10 cities across the country, including Portland. More than one in five people entering the Multnomah County jail in 2010 tested positive for opiates -- far and away greater than any of the other nine cities, which included New York, Chicago and Atlanta.

In Portland, 18 percent of county jail inmates reported having used heroin within the prior 30 days. Chicago was second, with 12 percent reported use.

But what is most alarming about the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program data is how different cities appear to be trending. In all the other cities surveyed, heroin use remained fairly consistent in recent years or grew slightly. In Portland, it has jumped.

As recently as 2009, Chicago's reported per capita heroin user rate almost doubled that of Portland. Four years ago, Portland trailed both Chicago and Washington, D.C. Now, at least as far as testing of people entering the jail, Portland is No. 1 and trending higher.

Low risk, high reward

The National Drug Intelligence Center 2011 Drug Threat Assessment Report says that heroin production in Mexico has risen from nine metric tons a year to more than 50 metric tons. Eric Martin, policy and legislative liaison for the Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon, is convinced that Oregon is getting more than its share.

Martin points to a 2007 map produced by the Intelligence Center which shows Portland/Salem as having the Pacific Northwest's largest Mexican cartel presence.

"Portland/Salem is basically the distribution hub for the entire Northwest region," Martin says.

Deputy DA Lufkin says he's not aware of Portland serving as a hub for the cartels, but logic dictates we might be.

"Everything in this world is connected," he says.

As Lufkin sees it, "Certain things are never going to change about Portland that makes it an attractive city for heroin addicts."

That starts with Oregon's drugs laws, which Lufkin says would make Oregon a logical place to set up a drug distribution network.

Most users or dealers caught selling less than five grams of heroin, according to Lufkin, receive a sentence of probation until their fifth conviction, which can net up to 12 months in jail, but rarely does.

That means prosecutors have little leverage to force most small-time dealers to provide names of people further up the distribution system.

"The cartels have found the place that affords them the least risk in drug seizures and the highest reward in distributing to local users," Lufkin say.

In addition, Lufkin says, Oregon law provides prosecutors little leeway in going after black market dealers of prescription painkillers.

"Even if you were trafficking in thousands of pills of OxyContin, it would still be a probationary sentence," he says.

Heroin addicts regularly tell Lufkin that they moved to Portland because of the availability of cheap heroin.

Part Two of Portland's Heroin Epidemic.

Prosecutor: Treat, don't jail heroin users

As far as Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin is concerned, an addict who has been arrested multiple times for heroin possession is sick.

During February's legislative session, Lufkin unsuccessfully supported a bill that would have allowed prosecutors to treat repeat heroin offenders as they would people who attempt suicide, and civilly commit them to treatment, even against their will.

Lufkin says he's going to return for a second attempt next year.

The 2012 session's House Bill 4022 would have classified people arrested at least three times for heroin possession as mentally ill, and set it up so they could be committed for up to 90 days of inpatient treatment and a year of outpatient treatment.

The county prosecutes about 1,100 heroin users a year, according to Lufkin, and about half have prior convictions for possessing the drug. Between court and jail, prosecuting a heroin addict runs between $3,200 and $28,000, Lufkin says. And the jail time, when they get it, rarely does addicts much good.

"We can spend all the money that's necessary to bring someone to a jury trial on a heroin charge with no results, or we can adopt a system that actually is the right tool to hit this problem," Lufkin says. "This person has a disease. They're an addict. It's a recognized mental health disease, and we can get them access to treatment and the thing saves money."

But that would be targeting the wrong people, says Alex Bassos, training director at Metropolitan Public Defender.

The problem, Bassos says, isn't the users getting arrested for possessing heroin. The problem is those who are overdosing. And those two categories, he says, aren't nearly as overlapping as people might think.

Bassos says the DA needs to make it a policy to use current civil commitment laws for heroin offenders who have repeatedly overdosed. Those laws, he says, which allow prosecutors to civilly commit people who attempt suicide, should work.

"That is exactly what civil commitment is for," Bassos says. "They have a (medically defined) mental disorder, and that's compelling them to do something which is dangerous to themselves and others."

Bassos, who says the D.A.'s plan "should terrify civil libertarians," thinks it also isn't practical because there are already long waiting lists for the best treatment for addicts -- inpatient beds in treatment facilities.

Lufkin says heroin offenders already require addiction treatment as part of their probation, and that with civil commitment it would happen more immediately and with a huge cost savings.

"The savings in time will help addicts stay alive and get faster access to treatment," Lufkin says. "The savings in money can go back into treatment resources to pay for essential treatment services, such as cutting down the waiting time for inpatient beds."

— Peter Korn

 

US counters drug smugglers in Mexican newspapers

The war on drugs is going to the classified sections of Mexican newspapers.

Smugglers have long advertised work as security guards, house cleaners and cashiers, telling applicants they must drive company cars to the United States. They aren't told the cars are loaded with drugs.

Starting this week, U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement began buying ad space in Tijuana newspapers to warn job seekers they might be unwitting pawns.

"Why don't we do the same thing that (cartels are) doing? It's successful for them. Why wouldn't it be successful for us?" Lester Hayes, a group supervisor for ICE in San Diego, recalls his agents telling him.

There have been 39 arrests since February 2011 at San Diego's two border crossings tied to the ads for seemingly legitimate jobs, according to ICE, which hadn't seen such significant numbers before.

Those arrests have yielded 3,400 pounds of marijuana, 75 pounds of cocaine and 100 pounds of methamphetamine _ a tiny fraction of total seizures but enough to convince U.S. authorities that smugglers are increasingly turning to the recruitment technique.

Drug smugglers always look to exploit weak links along the 1,954-mile border, even if the window of opportunity is brief. In the past several years, they have turned to makeshift boats on the Pacific Ocean and ultra-light aircraft in the deserts of California and Arizona. In the San Diego area, there has been a spike in teenagers strapping drugs to their bodies to walk across the border from Tijuana.

Some suddenly popular techniques are limited to particular pockets of the border. ICE has not spotted significant spikes in newspaper ads outside of San Diego.

Ads that authorities connect to drug smugglers appear innocuous. They offer work in the United States _ an invitation that only people who can cross the border legally need apply _ with a phone number and sometimes a location to apply in person.

New hires are told to drive company cars across the border, typically to a fast-food restaurant or shopping center in San Diego, according to ICE. When they arrive, they are often told there will be no work after all that day and must leave the car and walk back to Mexico after being paid a small amount.

The drivers are typically paid $50 to $200 a trip _ much less than the $1,500 to $5,000 that seasoned smugglers are typically paid for such trips, Hayes said.

For drug traffickers, the tactic lowers expenses and, they hope, makes drivers appear less nervous when questioned by border inspectors, said Millie Jones, an assistant special agent in charge of investigations for ICE in San Diego.

The drugs are stashed in the usual ways. Fifteen pounds of methamphetamine were found in a pickup truck's phony exhaust pipe in November. More than 250 pounds of marijuana were discovered in a van's overhead compartment last April.

More than 200 pounds of marijuana were found in vacuum-sealed plastic bags smothered in grease. Drugs are typically mixed with mustard, ketchup and fabric fresheners to defuse odors and ward off dogs used by authorities.

For years, U.S. authorities have bought newspaper space and broadcast airtime south of the border to deter illegal border crossings. The Border Patrol has a long-running media campaign in Mexico and Central America that includes musical "corridos," short documentaries and public service announcements.

The ICE ads that began appearing Sunday in classified sections of Tijuana's Frontera and El Mexicano are nothing fancy. Bold black letters say, "Warning! Drug traffickers are announcing jobs for drivers to go to the United States. Don't fall victim to this trap."

Mexican newspapers have faced online competitors but the papers' classified sections are relatively robust compared to U.S. publications.

Victor Clark, director of Tijuana's Binational Center for Human Rights, doubts the ads will work without specific instructions on how to confirm whether a company is legitimate, such as calling an ICE telephone number.

"It's very difficult for someone who is unemployed to know whether it's a trap," Clark said. "I don't think many people are inclined to investigate if they are desperate for work."

The cases can be challenging for prosecutors because drivers may not know they are smuggling drugs.

Debra Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego, declined to say how many cases have been prosecuted or cite any examples. Rachel Cano, assistant chief of the San Diego County district attorney's southern branch, said each case is different.

"Just like any other case, a theft case, we look at all of the facts and if there are sufficient facts that meet the elements of a crime and we can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, then we file charges," Cano said.

Guadalupe Valencia, a San Diego defense attorney, said the ads by U.S. authorities might inadvertently help defendants. Attorneys will argue it is an acknowledgement that people are often tricked.

"It has always been my opinion that there are many unknowing couriers," he said. "The challenge for the prosecution is you always have to prove knowledge."


 

Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 12

OFIR members and concerned citizens, you're invited to bring a friend and join us Saturday, May 12 at 2:00 pm for a behind the scenes look at the Arizona - Mexico border.  OFIR President, Cynthia Kendoll traveled with the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and a small group of concerned citizens from around the country on a week long, intensive study of the situation on our southern border in restricted areas not safely accessible to citizens.  Cynthia will be presenting a photographic tour of what she witnessed on the trip.  Move past the propaganda and see what is really happening.  During the trip, specialists in several governmental departments shared how they are impacted every day by illegal immigration.  Mark your calendar and plan to attend.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 2 pm

In Salem, at the Best Western Mill Creek Inn,

3125 Ryan Dr SE, just west of I-5 Exit 253, across from Costco.

 

Illicit drug deaths up 20 percent in state

Oregon State Police had the most drug seizures in the agency’s history last year. But deaths caused by illicit drugs spiked during the same period, killing 240 people statewide.

The 2011 death toll from heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or a combination of them was up from 200 the year before, according to state statistics.

The dramatic increase in deaths tied to illegal drugs was reported Thursday by the state medical examiner, the same day state police reported a record-setting number of drug confiscations.

“The sharp rise in illicit drug deaths in just one year is alarming,” said Dr. Karen Gunson, the state medical examiner. “Of great concern is the rise in heroin deaths, probably indicating an increase in the availability of the drug.”

The grim data came as no surprise to Jo Meza, who runs Amazing Treatment, which operates drug-treatment centers in Salem, Dallas and Monmouth.

“No, it doesn’t, because I have had a huge increase at my treatment facility with opiate addicts and heroin addicts,” she said.

Meza described the availability of heroin and other illegal drugs as “extremely high right now on the streets.”

Heroin was by far the deadliest illegal drug in 2011, killing or contributing to 143 deaths, mostly young men. That was 53 more than died the year before, and the most since 2000, when 131 died from heroin overdoses.

Multnomah County had the most drug-related deaths among Oregon counties last year, with 119. That was a 37 percent jump from the 87 deaths recorded in 2010 in the state’s most-populated county.

Marion County had a slight decrease in deaths tied to illegal drugs last year, with 10. There were a dozen in 2010.

Amid the steep rise in deaths caused by illegal drugs, Oregon fatalities tied to prescription drug overdoses stayed at a steady but “unacceptable level” last year, Gunson said.

In 2011, there were 100 overdose deaths from methadone, and another 56 connected to oxycodone. That compared with 101 and 59, respectively, in the previous year.

“The unacceptable level of the number of prescription drug deaths remained steady,” Gunson said. “We must continue to educate patients on the safe use of these medications and continue to warn those who abuse these drugs of how dangerous and fatal misuse may be.”

(Page 2 of 2)

Meza said doctors also need to become better educated about manipulative addicts who go to great lengths to obtain multiple prescription medications, either to sell the drugs or use it themselves.

Heroin, the deadliest illegal drug in Oregon, is a cheap and plentiful central nervous system depressant. As with most illegal drugs, heroin gets shipped along Interstate 5. That’s where state troopers and drug detectives make most of their traffic-stop seizures, nabbing large amounts of meth and cocaine and smaller amounts of heroin.

In all, state police recorded 300 drug seizures last year, nearly 30 percent higher than the year before and a jump of more than 150 percent from 2008.

The confiscated drugs included 242 pounds of methamphetamine, 164 pounds of cocaine and 24 pounds of heroin.

Capt. Calvin Curths, director of the state police criminal investigation division, acknowledged that illegal drugs remain abundant in Oregon despite efforts to clamp down on trafficking.

“Although these seizures have kept traffickers from delivering substantial quantities of dangerous illegal drugs to their destination, significant supplies remain available and have a real effect on our communities and individuals,” Curths said.

State police made 382 arrests in connection with drug seizures last year, a 15 percent increase from the year before.

Last year’s surge in drug seizures appears to be a trend continuing this year, especially along I-5, police said.

Among several recent drug seizures highlighted by the agency was a Feb. 7 incident along the freeway in the Salem area. Stopping an SUV shortly after midnight, troopers confiscated less than 2 pounds of potent black tar heroin. Further investigation prompted detectives to obtain a search warrant allowing them to scour the same vehicle. This time, they found nearly five more pounds of heroin, tucked away in a concealed part of the SUV.

Drug related deaths

 

Drug

2010

2011

Heroin

90

143

Cocaine

20

33

Meth

106

107

Total*

200

240

*Totals do not add up because of cases of multiple drug usage.

The ICE public advocate needs to hear from you

In February, ICE announced the creation of a new office to serve as a point of contact for those (illegal aliens and their advocates) who have "concerns, questions, recommendations or important issues they would like to raise."

The office will be led by Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, who has been at ICE since 2008.

Since then, however, ICE has not seen fit to establish a citizen victim's advocacy unit to address the concerns of victims and their families.

Citizens and legal residents who have been affected by illegal immigration – especially those who have been the victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens – should not hesitate to get in touch with Mr. Strait, and let him and his staff know your concerns.

In his blog, he said he is "thrilled" to be in this role, and hopes you'll reach out to him.  He can be reached at andrew.strait@dhs.gov or (202) 732-3999.

 

15 arrested in drug trafficking investigation

Fifteen people in the mid-Willamette Valley were arrested Tuesday in connection with a major drug trafficking investigation led by the state Department of Justice. Eleven of the 15 are being held in the Benton County Jail on charges that include racketeering, money laundering and other related drug charges.

Authorities said that the organization distributed as much as four pounds of meth and two pounds of heroin throughout the mid-valley on any given week.

“This is an organization that lived and survived and profited from these dangerous drugs,” Corvallis police Capt. Jon Sassaman said Tuesday. “These are drugs that frankly, they ruin peoples lives. It ruins individual’s lives, it ruins families and ruins futures.”

About 180 law enforcement personnel from the Willamette Valley and other parts of Oregon assisted with serving the warrants in what the Oregon Department of Justice referred to as “Operation Icebreaker 2.” Ice is one of the street words for meth.

Although he would not provide more details regarding the scope and operation, Sassaman confirmed that one of the locations raided Tuesday was La Azteca Video Y Musica, 1411 N.W. Ninth St. The location, previously holding a store called La Poderosa, also was at the epicenter of a similar drug trafficking operation in 2007, dubbed “Icebreaker.” It resulted in the arrest of 17 people for racketeering and money laundering in what police said was the largest drug raid in this area.

One of the owners of Azteca, Rafael Ayala Lucio, 35, was among those arrested Tuesday. He was jailed on $10 million bail. Lucio also originally owned La Poderosa, which opened it in 2003. He sold the store to Ricardo Linares in 2005, then bought the store back in 2007. Linares was among those arrested in the 2007 “Icebreaker” sweep.

None of those arrested in 2007 was arrested in Tuesday’s arrest sweep, which involved serving 15 search warrants Tuesday morning in Benton, Linn and Marion counties. Preliminary information shows that law enforcement seized 3.7 pounds of methamphetamine, 7 pounds of heroin, 2½ pounds of cocaine, firearms and about $95,000 in cash.

The search warrants are the culmination of a nine-month investigation into a highly organized, structured and sophisticated illegal drug trafficking and racketeering distribution enterprise, according to the Oregon Department of Justice.

The defendants, the agency alleges, operated out of their residences and, through a network of associates, distributed methamphetamine and heroin throughout the mid-valley.

Sassaman said he would not comment on the investigation, which he said came to police attention because people talk: “When you have a very organized organization that’s bringing in a significant amount of narcotics to the area, sooner or later someone’s going to talk about it,” he said.

He said that the organization of the tri-county operation is similar to a pyramid and those in the jail with the highest bails held the top positions within the organizations. The drugs — which included methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin — came from outside the area, Sassaman said.

“When a case like this occurs, and you look and we have 19 different law enforcement agencies involved, serving simultaneous search warrants, that speaks volumes,” Sassaman said.

Those arrested were:

Rogelio Gonzalez-Martinez, 37, who lives in Linn County
Charged with racketeering
$10 million bail (Unknown location).

Abel Gonzalez-Martinez, 31, of Corvallis
Charged with two counts of racketeering, conspiracy to delivery meth, cocaine and heroin, three counts of delivery of meth, conspiracy to deliver cocaine and conspiracy to deliver heroin
$10 million bail (Benton County Jail).

Juventino Santibanez-Castro, 24, of Corvallis
Charged with two counts of racketeering, nine counts of delivery of meth, conspiracy to deliver meth, heroin and cocaine, and four counts of delivery of heroin
$10 million bail (Benton County Jail).

Juana Bautista-Zuniga, 34, of Corvallis
Charged with two counts of racketeering, 10 counts of delivery of meth, conspiracy to deliver meth, heroin and cocaine, and four counts of delivery of heroin
$1 million bail (Benton County Jail).

Joachim Felgentraeger, 63, of Albany
Charged with racketeering, delivery of meth
$1 million bail (Benton County Jail).

Jessica Marie Mendez, 32, of Albany
Charged with racketeering
$1 million bail (Benton County Jail).

Adrian Corona-Cornejo, 25, of Corvallis
Charged with racketeering
$1 million bail (Benton County Jail).

James Kenji Knox, 52, address unknown
Charged with racketeering
$1 million bail (Benton County Jail).

Ricardo Viramontes, 36, of Albany
Charged with racketeering
$1 million bail (Benton County Jail).

Jose Diego Flores-Juarez, 20, of Albany
Charged with racketeering
$1 million bail (Benton County Jail).

Jaime Rincon-Herrera, 27, of Corvallis
Charged with racketeering
$1 million bail (Benton County Jail).

Lorena Gonzalas Pulido, 33, lives in Linn County
Charged with unlawful delivery of cocaine and heroin
$70,000 bail (Linn County Jail, INS Hold)

Rafael Lucio Ayala, 35, lives in Linn County
Charged with money laundering and racketeering
$70,000 bail (Benton County Jail, ICE Hold).

Gilberto Garcia Camacho, 25, lives in Linn County
Charged with racketeering
Bail unknown (Unknown location).

Camilo Garcia Sanchez, 25, lives in Marion County
Charged with unlawful delivery of heroin and cocaine
Bail unknown (Marion County Correctional Facility, INS Hold).

 

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Absurd! President Obama's proposed budget cuts to Customs and Border Enforcement

Having just returned from a week long, intensive study of the Arizona/Mexico border I am appalled at the prospect of a reduced budget for our border protection.  Men and women of the border patrol and a variety of law enforcement agencies put their lives on the line every day to protect us.  It is our government's responsibility to make certain they have everything they need to do the job.  Drug cartels and human smugglers are very well funded and are just waiting for a reduction in our security to make their move.

The role of Government is to protect. Beyond securing our borders and protecting us from our enemies, the role of the Federal Government should be very small.

And yet, on Wednesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing on President Obama’s proposed budget cuts to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), included in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) budget proposal for Fiscal year 2013.

  • $68.2 million decrease in funding for air and marine operations and procurements
  • $7.1 million reduction in air and marine staff
  • $6 million decrease in border security inspections and trade facilitation between points of entry
  • $6.7 million decrease in automation technology modernization
  • $72.9 million decrease in border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology

Both Republicans and Democrats on the Subcommittee raised concerns that these proposed reductions could weaken CBP programs and put border security in jeopardy.

Read more at:  http://www.fairus.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=24897&security=1601&news_iv_ctrl=1012#4

OFIR President returns safely from border tour

OFIR's President has returned from a week long intensive study of the Arizona/Mexico border.  Meeting with experts from Border Patrol, National Parks, DEQ, Fish and Wildlife, the Tohono O'odham Indian Nation and law enforcement officers from several agencies all along the border, Cynthia has gained a great deal of insight into the issues on the border.  Please check back for updates.


 

OFIR president touring Arizona/Mexico border

Greetings from the Arizona Mexico Border.  I am traveling with the Center for Immigration Studies and I can't wait to share all I've seen and learned with all of you.  Check back regularly!

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