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Security Tight for Drug Suspect

Times Staff Writer

Federal authorities, concerned about security, are holding a Colombian national, accused of running a ton-a-week cocaine ring, in the top-security area of the federal prison at Terminal Island.

Mario Villabona-Alvarado, 28, who allegedly teamed with Brian (Waterhead Bo) Bennett to run a nationwide drug ring headquartered in Los Angeles, was being held in the same unit housing Leonardo Gomez, a convicted drug dealer who Villabona-Alvarado allegedly once tried to help escape.

“He (Villabona-Alvarado) is a big risk because of the money and contacts he has on the outside,” U.S. Marshal Samuel Cicchino said.

Last December, less than a month after Gomez was sentenced to 12 years in prison and was being held at Terminal Island, Villabona-Alvarado plotted his escape, according to court documents.

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On March 28, Gomez and another man hid in a secret compartment in a stack of wooden pallets inside the Terminal Island facility. The pallets, used in a workshop, were to be removed from the prison.

A guard noticed some movement in the pallets and Gomez and his partner were arrested.

Gomez and two others have been charged with escape and are awaiting trial.

Bennett, arrested last week in Tempe, Ariz., is being held in Phoenix.

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