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Public Fight Urged : $1.6 Million Seized in Drug Investigation

Times Staff Writer

The arrest of a Huntington Beach man identified as a “major trafficker” in cocaine and the seizure of $1.6 million in cash led Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates Thursday to urge public support in the fight against drugs.

“We’re looking for hero role models in each community to help the fight against drugs on an individual level,” Gates said as he announced a new campaign entitled “Together We Win. Divided We Lose.”

Sheriff’s deputies and police departments hope to recruit residents into the drug battle through newspaper ads and anti-drug promotional campaigns in the workplace with the cooperation of Orange County employers, Gates said at a press conference in Santa Ana. The seized $1.6 million was stacked on a table in front of him as he spoke.

“We’ve got to make an impact on the passive acceptance of drug usage in this county, and it starts with individuals,” he said.

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The cache of money was seized Wednesday night during the arrest of Walter Alan Curland, 36, identified as a “major trafficker” in cocaine in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties, said Eugene Hansen, acting police chief of Santa Ana.

Hansen said Curland had been under surveillance as part of a two-month police investigation.

On Wednesday, Curland was seen placing “suspicious packages,” which later turned out to be $150,000 in cash, into his vehicle, Hansen said.

Curland was stopped near Harbor Boulevard and the Garden Grove Freeway in Garden Grove, Hansen said, and was arrested after a drug-sniffing police dog “alerted” officers of the Orange County Regional Narcotic Suppression Program, Hansen said.

The dog’s alert indicated that the packages had been used to transport drugs or had been set near drugs, police said. However, no cocaine was found.

Police obtained search warrants for Curland’s Huntington Beach home in the 16100 block of Tortola Street, a Manhattan Beach liquor store he owns and a storage facility he used in Torrance.

About $1.3 million was found in a safe at the storage facility and another $100,000 at the liquor store, Hansen said, along with a small amount of marijuana in the storage facility.

Curland was taken to Orange County Jail after his arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a crime and sales of a controlled substance.

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More arrests are expected in the case, Hansen said.

At Gates’ press conference Donald Burns--a Newport Beach investment adviser who is also president of the 500-member Sheriff’s Advisory Council of county business and community leaders--said his group will serve as the sheriff’s public relations campaign force for the campaign against drugs.

“We do not yet have a date for the newspaper ads,” Burns said, “but we will be seeking the cooperation of chief executive officers for private companies in Orange County soon.”

Law enforcement officials also praised Winston, the Sheriff Department’s yellow Labrador retriever, who alerted officials to the cash inside the vehicle and at the safe in Torrance.

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Winston achieved fame in June, 1984, after he was credited with the seizure of $4.1 million in cash stuffed into duffel bags, suitcases and boxes in two Disneyland-area hotel rooms in Anaheim.


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