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South County Drug Raids Net Nearly 30

Times Staff Writer

After a 10-week undercover operation, officers from four agencies arrested nearly 30 suspected small-scale drug dealers Friday in an early morning raid in south Orange County.

The investigation, called “Operation Snowball,” focused on street dealers, according to Lt. Richard Olson of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which coordinated the raid with San Clemente, Laguna Beach and Buena Park police departments.

Most of those arrested were from Mission Viejo, Dana Point, El Toro and the Laguna area, and were held on bail ranging from $25,000 to $250,000. Charges included possession and sales of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Police did not provide a complete list of those arrested, citing “confidentiality of on-going investigations.”

Police did not announce the amount or dollar value of the drugs seized during the arrests.

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Citizen Complaints

The investigation began in the Dana Point area after citizen complaints to the Sheriff’s Department, according to a prepared statement by the department. By the time it was ended, 28 felony warrants for south Orange County suspects and one for Buena Park were issued, along with four search warrants.

Early Friday morning, 51 officers were divided into eight groups, briefed in detail and outfitted with “raid jackets” identifying them as team members.

Included with warrants in the briefing material were photographs of the suspects, floor plans of their homes and information about other people who might be living there, as well as the likelihood of violent resistance.

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Two narcotics dogs, Snowball and Winston, were used in the raids. The operation was directed from the county’s mobile command post and communications van. Also at the site were a search-and-rescue van, property truck and two prisoner transfer vehicles. Those arrested were taken in groups to the Orange County jail.

“Although the arrest of street dealers does not usually result in the seizure of large quantities of drugs,” the statement said, “the arrest of these individuals has often led to large-scale drug operations information. Also, very important is the fact that the street dealer is identified and removed, at least temporarily, from the environment of selling drugs to others.”

The statement said the investigation was “a team effort. Without citizen information to initiate the investigation and the cooperative effort of the San Clemente, Laguna Beach and Buena Park police departments, Operation Snowball would not have been a success.”


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