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Drug Suspect Freed From Jail by Error Held on New Charge

Times Staff Writer

A Redondo Beach man, arrested last week after police allegedly found 450 pounds of marijuana at his car storage business, was picked up again by detectives Tuesday after he was mistakenly released from jail and caught allegedly trying to move another load of drugs, police said.

Authorities said Frank V. Agosto, 40, was inadvertently released from Los Angeles County Jail on Tuesday, a day before a hearing was scheduled on whether he should be released on $150,000 bail on a charge of possessing marijuana for sale.

But Hermosa Beach police said they were pleasantly surprised Tuesday afternoon when an anonymous tipster spotted Agosto at a Hawthorne storage yard.

Steven Wisniewski, director of public safety in Hermosa Beach, said Detective Steve Endom rushed to the yard on Aviation Boulevard and found Agosto loading his BMW with two boxes and an ice chest.

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Endom detained Agosto while Detective George Barrett obtained a search warrant in South Bay Municipal Court. When Barrett arrived with the search warrant, the detectives found a “potpourri” of drugs in the BMW, Wisniewski said, including 20 pounds of marijuana, an ounce of cocaine, two ounces of hashish, two bottles of liquid morphine, a half-ounce of hallucinogenic mushrooms and 100 Quaaludes and other pills.

“It was great, absolutely great,” Endom said. “I’m very happy Agosto tried to take advantage of the system. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be bailed out.”

‘No Hold on Him’

Defense attorney Donald Wager denied that Agosto left jail improperly. “In checking we found that there was no (jail) hold on him for the hearing,” Wager said. Agosto “was not going to run,” Wager said. “He planned on coming back to court the next day, even though he was let out early.”

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Wager said Agosto went to the Hawthorne storage yard to destroy the drugs. “He wanted to be clear of any claims” that he committed a crime, Wager said.

Agosto pleaded not guilty last week in South Bay Municipal Court to the original marijuana charge, as did his alleged accomplice, Robert Jones, 52, of Malibu.

Wager declined to comment on the marijuana charge.

On Thursday, Agosto returned to court and pleaded not guilty to five counts of possessing various narcotics for sale. He was being held at county jail with an increased bail of $650,000.

Hermosa Beach police said Agosto initially fell under suspicion after informants said he was selling 15- to 20-pound packages of marijuana out of the car garage that he owns at 2663 Manhattan Beach Blvd. in Redondo Beach.

Hermosa Beach detectives pursued the case in their city because the marijuana was being sold in Hermosa Beach and all around the South Bay, Wisniewski said.

Smelled It From Street

Investigators staked out the building and saw Agosto and Jones moving packages of what they believed was marijuana, Wisniewski said. The amount of the weed was so great that police could smell it from the street, Wisniewski said.

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Eight police officers raided the garage March 1 and arrested Agosto and Jones. Both were ordered jailed on $150,000 bail and faced hearings to persuade a South Bay Municipal Court judge that any bond money they posted would not come from illicit sources. Funds obtained in the commission of a felony cannot be used to post bail.

Jones posted bail this week after satisfying a judge that the funds were not illicit, Endom said.

But jail officials were not notified about Agosto’s pending Wednesday hearing and freed him a day early after he posted the $150,000, Endom said.


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