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Task Force Drug Raids Net 3 Suspects in Orange County; More Arrests Expected

Times Staff Writer

More than 120 law enforcement officers carrying shotguns and automatic weapons Tuesday stormed a La Habra industrial complex and other businesses and residences in Orange County, culminating a 10-month federal drug investigation, an FBI spokesman said.

Three suspects were arrested and another remained a fugitive after U.S. Magistrate Ronald W. Rose in Santa Ana authorized members of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force to make the arrests and search 17 businesses and residences in Orange County, said Fred Reagan, an FBI spokesman.

Guns, exotic cars, cash and an unknown amount of cocaine were seized in the raids, Reagan said.

“We won’t know how much cocaine, cash and weapons we have until a full inventory is completed,” Reagan said. He estimated that the inventory would be finished today.

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Workers at the industrial complex recalled hearing a police helicopter buzz overhead and watching “swarms” of police tear down a door and smash windows to gain access to an office-warehouse facility at the Lambert-Palm Business Center, 605 S. Palm St.

Meanwhile, shotgun-toting officers accompanied by drug-sniffing dogs made similar raids at the residences of the suspects in La Habra, Brea and Anaheim.

Shawn Tully Smith, 25, of Brea, was arrested and arraigned Tuesday on federal charges of conspiracy and distribution of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a high school.

Reagan said he was uncertain whether any high school students were Smith’s clients. Under federal statute, selling cocaine carries a stiffer penalty if it is done next to a high school.

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Also arrested were Dean Louis Nicoletti, 28, of La Habra and Anthony Leonard Natale, age unknown, of Anaheim. Both were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

William Thomas Natale, 43, of La Habra, a brother of Anthony Natale, remained a fugitive Tuesday.

More arrests are expected, Reagan said.

Officers from the FBI, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, La Habra Police Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms participated in the raid.

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Other law enforcement agencies involved were the Anaheim, Brea, Garden Grove and Newport Beach police departments, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the San Jacinto Police Department and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.


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