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5 Raids Net 675 Pounds of Cocaine

Times Staff Writer

West Covina police and federal narcotics agents have confiscated 675 pounds of cocaine and $2 million in cash in a series of raids in four communities that began Wednesday night, officers said Thursday.

Police and agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided five homes, arrested 13 adults and three juveniles, and seized uncut cocaine with an estimated street value of $140 million during the raids that ended Thursday morning. It was the fourth in a series of major drug busts in Southern California during the past three weeks.

“The people we have arrested appear to be major cocaine dealers, not street sellers,” West Covina Police Lt. Dan Leonard said. “We put a big bite into the total available cocaine in the San Gabriel Valley.”

The raids followed a two-month undercover investigation by members of the West Covina Police Department’s special enforcement team.

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The arrests were made in West Covina, Baldwin Park, Rowland Heights and Huntington Park. Sixteen weapons, including a Thompson automatic machine gun, and stacks of money in $20, $50, $100 and $500 denominations were found in the homes, police said.

Police began surveillance of a home in the 1700 block of South Oakgreen Street in West Covina after neighbors complained two months ago about suspicious activity, West Covina Cmdr. Ray Leavitt said. Observations at that home led officers to the other locations, he said.

Most of the cocaine was seized at a home in the 1400 block of Destoya Avenue in Rowland Heights. Leavitt said police believe that drugs were distributed to the suspects from that address.

The suspects, all believed to be foreign nationals, were being held in West Covina Jail on suspicion of possession of narcotics for sale. Bail has been set at $1 million for each adult, the officers said. The juveniles will be transferred to Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles or released to relatives. Arraignments are expected this afternoon or Monday morning.

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The raids began Wednesday night when Leal Beltran, 29, was arrested after allegedly participating in a drug transaction at the home in West Covina, police said.

Manuel Flores, 31, and Jesus Flores, age unknown, were arrested later at the same address. Jose Rodriguez, 33, and his wife, Maria, 33, were arrested at home in the 4600 block of Norco Avenue in Baldwin Park.

Police said that a 17-year-old male and two females, 16 and 17, were arrested at the home in Rowland Heights. Also arrested there were Hildalgo Guzman, 41; Evaristo Lopez, 26, and Delores Hernandez, 32.

Five people were taken into custody at two locations in Huntington Park. Victor Grijalva, 47; Olga Grijalva, 48; Guadelupe Velasquez, 63, and Patricia Lopez, 23, were arrested at a home in the 4000 block of East 61st Street. Juanita Guerrero Uriarte, 25, was arrested at a home in the 3000 block of Live Oak Ave.

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Police earlier confiscated large amounts of drugs in a series of raids that began March 28 in Arcadia, when an estimated $70 million worth of cocaine was seized. On April 4, police in Orange County seized 1,784 pounds of cocaine.


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