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Raids Net Another Cocaine Bonanza

Times Staff Writer

Federal and local narcotics investigators said Wednesday that they have confiscated 400 pounds of cocaine, $2 million in cash and assorted weapons and arrested four suspects in Orange and Los Angeles counties in the second major raid of suspected drug dealers in less than a week.

Authorities said the arrests Tuesday night and Wednesday morning were not related to the arrests in Orange County last Friday of 10 suspects and the seizure of 1,784 pounds of cocaine in what was described as the largest cocaine bust in California history.

In the latest arrests, about 40 agents of the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles and Simi Valley police departments served search warrants at five locations in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Authorities seized cocaine with an estimated street value of $50 million at a residence on Gemini Street in El Toro, where they also arrested Mario Alfredo Lopez Martinez, 28, FBI spokesman Fred Reagan said.

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$2 Million in Cash

At a home in the 22500 block of Caminito Estaban in Laguna Hills, investigators confiscated more than $2 million in cash and arrested Jose Eugenio Ramirez, 44.

Also arrested at a residence in the 14400 block of Marwood Avenue in Hacienda Heights were Gilberto Valencia, 28, and George Barrera, 27, who is also known as Jorge or Julian Barrera.

Martinez is a Guatemalan national and the other three suspects are Colombian nationals, Reagan said.

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A fifth suspect, identified only as Fabio Pazcualli, remains at large, U.S. attorney’s spokeswoman Laura Henry said.

The four suspects in custody appeared before a federal magistrate in Los Angeles Wednesday. A criminal complaint was filed charging them with conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine, Henry said. All four suspects were ordered held without bail pending an appearance today before a U.S. magistrate, Henry said.

Dwight McKinney, spokesman for the Los Angeles division of the DEA, said the arrests culminated two years of investigation.

Search warrants also were served Tuesday night on a second Hacienda Heights residence and a home in Chatsworth, Simi Valley Police Sgt. Fred James said. No arrests were made at those two locations, although police confiscated $24,000 in cash at the Chatsworth home, he said.

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The latest drug seizures add up to about 5,000 pounds of cocaine seized in the last two weeks in sweeps by federal and local narcotics agents in the Southern California-Northwestern Mexico area. DEA officials said that law enforcement crackdowns in the Caribbean area and a steadily growing demand for cocaine in the Los Angeles area have shifted narcotics trafficking from southern Florida to the West Coast.


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