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DEA agents break drug ring involving Manteca home
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The Highway 99 corridor – long known for drug trafficking operations – led law enforcement officers to a series of arrests of nine individuals suspected to be part of a drug sales ring.

A Manteca home was raided earlier this month when drug agents completed their investigations into an alleged conspiracy to distribute controlled substances from Los Angeles to Sacramento involving methamphetamine and cocaine.

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officers along with the San Joaquin County Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force (METRO) served one of six search warrants that included a residence in the Chadwick Square area of Manteca near Stella Brockman School south of Lathrop Road and East of Airport Way.

Their focus was on the home of German Gonzalez-Velazquez, 41, in the 1900 block of NuShake Way in Manteca.  Velazquez was one of nine to be arrested on federal warrants Feb. 11 on suspicion of conspiracy in the planned distribution of more than 500 grams of methamphetamines.

The armed officers took the Manteca man into custody as other search warrants were being served throughout the Central Valley.

Investigators said they believed Velazquez had purchased multiple-pound quantities of methamphetamines during the illicit drug operation that reportedly came from Mexico through the Los Angeles area.

The other law enforcement agencies that joined forces in breaking the drug ring included the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, the Sacramento Police Department, the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and the Elk Grove Police Department.     

The DEA was granted six search warrants and nine arrest warrants from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern California Division.  Residences searched included two in  Stockton, Acampo, Galt, and two in Sacramento.    

In addition to Valazquez of Manteca, others taken into federal custody include Aurelio Lopez-Castro, Diana Hernandez, Marcela Santamaria, Jesus Humberto Lopez-Valenzuela, Irma Anacani Gonzalez, Concepcion Carrillo, Rudy Solis Torres and Orlando Fletes-Lopez.

Federal, state and county agents spent months carrying out their investigation that involved intercepted telephone calls, surveillance and the use of a number of confidential sources, according to the filed affidavit.

The Manteca suspect and his accomplices were observed meeting together in the Manteca business community on West Yosemite Avenue and at a home on French Camp Road that investigators labeled as a possible “stash house” for their drugs.  Another was said to be two blocks off of Waterloo Road in the 1800 block of Acacia Street in Stockton.

On Nov. 12,  U.S. District Court Judge John A. Mendez, Eastern District of California issued an order that authorized the wiretapping of a Sacramento telephone believed to belong to one of the suspects.  That order was terminated on Nov. 24.

Again on Jan. 31, Judge Mendez authorized two more wire taps on phone numbers suspected in the alleged drug operation to allow investigators the ability to intercept wire communications to and from those targeted numbers.  That order was good until early March and was canceled by the multiple arrests and searches this month.

Through those wire taps law enforcement officers were able to learn of planned shipments of large quantities of methamphetamines across the Mexican border to domestic distributors, the affidavit noted.

Surveillance operations were geographically in place from the Claremont area in Southern California and throughout the Central Valley.  Monies believed to have come from drug sales were found in secret compartments in vehicles stopped by traffic officers as far away as Reno, Nevada and in the state of Minnesota.

One large amount of cash was located in a well-engineered compartment in the radiator of a car pulled over by the Nevada Highway Patrol.  It was on May 13 when Diana

Hernandez was driving westbound on I-80 near Reno when officers seized $256,064 in cash from her engine cooling system.

In late September one suspect in the string of arrests, Orlando Fletes-Lopez, was pulled over by officers as he was heading southbound on Highway 99 near Elk Grove driving a Chevy truck registered to Edgar Medina-Casillas of Clarksburg.

Casillas had been arrested earlier in September in Minnesota allegedly having 13 kilograms of cocaine in his possession.   An Elk Grove canine alerted on the left rear corner of the truck driven by Fletes-Lopez, the report stated, and officers discovered over $79,000 in cash hidden behind the tail lights of the vehicle.

On Nov. 20 a CHP officer pulled over a white Honda Accord near Fresno and registered to one of the suspects, Irma Gonzalez, of Sacramento.  The driver, Aurelio Lopez-

Castro, signed a consent form allowing the officer to search the vehicle.  The officer reportedly located some 15 pounds of crystal methamphetamine inside a speaker box in the trunk of the car.

With the evidence in at hand, it was the conclusion of the investigators that Lopez-Castro was serving as a drug runner for Fletes-Lopez.  Methamphetamine is currently selling on the street for $10,000 to $11,000 a pound, officers noted.