Pubdate: Sat, 09 Mar 2002
Source: North County Times (CA)
Copyright: 2002 North County Times
Author: Jo Moreland
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Federal, state and local law enforcement officers arrested 12 people Friday 
in a crackdown on what authorities are calling a significant North County 
heroin ring.

The 15-month investigation, dubbed Operation Black Top, is the latest 
stemming from a national probe that started four years ago with a tip to 
Carlsbad police. That investigation, known as Operation Tar Pit, led to 
scores of arrests across the United States as officials cracked down on 
black-tar heroin dealers.

In the latest spin-off case, officers served 13 search warrants early 
Friday in Vista, Oceanside and San Marcos, authorities said.

Officials said the agents seized 3 1/2 pounds of black tar heroin with an 
estimated street value of $210,000; about $28,000 in suspected drug money 
and five guns.

"What makes this unusual is that this organization went undetected for 
about 15 years," said Special Agent Donald J. Thornhill Jr., U.S. Drug 
Enforcement Administration spokesman. "The heroin's coming from Mexico. 
It's staying in North County. They're distributing it there."

He said officers were able to infiltrate the ring about 18 months ago. DEA 
agents, the Carlsbad Police Department and the San Diego County Integrated 
Narcotics Task Force led the investigation, officials said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol M. Lee said all 12 indicted defendants were 
arrested and booked into the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in 
San Diego. Some of the suspects were arraigned Friday.

"The government is seeking detention on all of them, pending trial," Lee said.

U.S. Attorney Patrick O'Toole said the defendants are Efrain 
Ramirez-Ramirez and Brian Buffet, both 42; Elsa Matias Lopez, 39; Ana Maria 
Machic, 32; Jesus Moreno Camarillo, 38; Kathleen Hearn, 46; Robert J. Algeo 
and Yadira Villalvazo, both 24; Tobias Rodarte Michel, 23; Margarito Paz, 
22; Natasha Roldan, 20, and Jesus Navarro, 19.

They all live in Oceanside and Vista, authorities said.

The suspects are charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, possession 
of heroin with intent to distribute and aiding and abetting, authorities 
said. Penalties could include life in prison and a $4 million fine.
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