Pubdate: Sat, 21 May 2005
Source: Blade, The (Toledo, OH)
Copyright: 2005 The Blade
Author: Christina Hall, Blade Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Heroin worth $4 million to $6 million was seized in the Toledo area,
and two Mexican nationals were arrested in what authorities yesterday
called the biggest heroin seizure ever in the state and one of the
largest in the country.

Area law-enforcement authorities Thursday seized 18.5 kilograms, or
about 40.7 pounds, of heroin and arrested Rene Garcia-Torrez, 44, and
Armondo Palma-Loya, 42. Both suspects, who had Texas addresses, are
being held without bond in the Lucas County jail on federal drug charges.

Authorities said the arrests came after a federal investigation into
drug trafficking that began about a year ago. They declined comment on
how the investigation started, but said it involved extensive
negotiation and surveillance.

The joint investigation -- concluded by the Toledo Metro Drug Task
Force -- has ties to other states and Mexico, Toledo police Chief Mike
Navarre said.

"This was not a result of luck, not being in the right place at the
right time," he said. "This was a loss of a significant amount of
money to someone."

John Sommer, executive director of the Ohio High Intensity Drug
Trafficking Area, a federally coordinated effort targeting major drug
trafficking routes, agreed, noting that normal heroin busts are in

"This represents thousands and thousands of doses of heroin that will
be kept off the streets of Toledo and surrounding areas," he said.

Authorities said Palma-Loya came here Wednesday and delivered seven
kilograms of heroin. A day later, he and Mr. Garcia-Torrez delivered
another 11.5 kilograms.

The heroin was delivered to an undercover officer, who used hundreds
of thousands of dollars to buy the drug. The money was recovered after
the suspects were arrested in a pickup at 2:30 a.m. Thursday in the
7400 block of Airport Highway in Springfield Township.

Authorities said the heroin originated in Mexico and is street

They declined comment on whether any additional drugs were seized or
other arrests were made as a result of the investigation.

An affidavit in U.S. District Court in Toledo reviewed by The Blade
indicates the undercover officer obtained the heroin from Palma-Loya
and that Mr. Garcia-Torrez was present when the transaction occurred.

Mr. Garcia-Torrez was later found in possession of $11,000 that was
part of the payment the undercover officer gave Palma-Loya, according
to the affidavit.

Both men were charged in federal court with possession with intent to
distribute more than one kilogram of heroin. They declined requests
for interviews.

If convicted, Mr. Garcia-Torrez could face 10 years in prison and a $4
million fine and Palma-Loya could receive a mandatory 20 years to life
in prison and an $8 million fine.

Authorities said Palma-Loya has an extensive criminal record and
served federal prison time for drug trafficking. Mr. Garcia-Torrez,
they said, has no criminal record in the U.S.

Mr. Sommer said heroin is a growing problem and is second to
methamphetamine. He said purity levels are increasing and the price is
decreasing. Heroin use is not only a problem in cities, but is often
found in well-to-do suburbs and crosses all economic backgrounds, he

The Lucas County coroner's office has recorded 54 heroin-related
deaths in the last 10 years. The number of such deaths hit its peak in
2000 with 13.

Four heroin-related deaths have been recorded so far this year,
equaling the total for all of 2004. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: SHeath(DPFFLorida)