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Rings Hard to Crack, Prosecutor Says

Times Staff Writer

The assistant district attorney prosecuting 10 South Americans arrested last weekend in a drug raid in which nearly a ton of cocaine was found said Wednesday that he doubts that the case will shed light on any other major drug operations in the area.

“We keep stumbling over big cases, but they are all different,” said James Brooks, one of a four-member narcotics investigation team for the district attorney’s office. “It’s difficult to find evidence linking large groups together.”

In addition, Brooks said, it is rare in such cases for suspects to agree to plea-bargain arrangements in which they provide information leading to other suspects.

Further, he said, “I have found in all these (major drug) cases that the person, or people, at the top level stay insulated from police. There are a lot of people between them and the police. There is no evidence of who the big ones are.”

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Brooks said Los Angeles Police Department investigators, who initiated the raids at five locations in Fullerton, Placentia and Anaheim last Friday night, are continuing an examination of ledgers and records seized during the raids. Officers from the Los Angeles District Drug Enforcement Administration Office, Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Anaheim, Fullerton and Placentia police departments participated in the raids.

The officers and agents, who acted on a tip by an unidentified informant, confiscated 1,784 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $500 million in what is believed to be the largest such seizure in California. About $730,000 in cash was found at one of the residences. Agents also discovered a sophisticated money-counting machine, according to a search-warrant affidavit.

Brooks said he will present a motion Friday before North Municipal Judge Daniel T. Brice to have the 10 defendants--eight Colombians, one Venezuelan and one Ecuadorean--submit to handwriting tests to compare their writing with that on the ledgers.

He added that the ledgers contain records of money paid and owed to the alleged cocaine dealers.

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Three attorneys representing five of the defendants will also argue motions before Brice on Friday to have the district attorney’s office turn over to them evidence and documents associated with the case.

The five other defendants have court-appointed attorneys. All 10 have pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of cocaine for sale and remain in Orange County Jail in lieu of $4 million bail each.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 17 before Brice.


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