Teacher’s Aide Accused of Being Leader of Drug Ring

A monthlong narcotics task force investigation has ended with the arrest of six people and the seizure of more than $460,000 in cash and crystal methamphetamine, a task force spokesman said Thursday.

The drugs, cash and several firearms were confiscated about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday during searches of two San Diego homes by the narcotics task force, said Ron J. D’Ulisse, a spokesman for the task force, composed of local and federal agents.

Graciela Lara-Appell, 38, whom police described as a teacher’s aide and the drug ring leader, was arrested during a search of her home in the 3500 block of 42nd Street, D’Ulisse said.

Police seized $238,000 cash, 3 pounds of methamphetamine valued at $110,000, three revolvers and two pickup trucks, D’Ulisse said.

Lara-Appell was being held on $250,000 bail in the downtown County Jail on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance and suspicion of possessing a controlled substance for sale, a jail spokeswoman said. She is scheduled to be arraigned today.


Manuel Rodriguez Barajas, 27, and four illegal aliens were arrested during a search of Barajas’ home in the 800 block of S. 47th Street, where police seized another 3 pounds of crystal methamphetamine valued at $110,000, and $5,000 cash, D’Ulisse said.

Juan Lopez Rodriguez, 23, Fernando Costado Meza, 21, Juan Lara Munoz, 28, and a 17-year old male were arrested at Rodriguez Barajas’ home, D’Ulisse said.

The adults are being held in downtown County Jail on $250,000 bail on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance for sale, a County Jail spokeswoman said. In addition, Munoz was being held on suspicion of possessing drugs. Arraignment for each of the adults is scheduled for today, and bail for each was set at $250,000.

The 17-year-old is being held in Juvenile Hall, D’Ulisse said. His name and arrest information were withheld because of his age.