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North Hollywood : 2 Held in ’94 Drug Bust Are Convicted

Two men arrested during a North Hollywood drug bust last year that netted nearly a ton of cocaine worth an estimated $300 million have been convicted on several narcotics-related charges.

Valley residents Ramon Franco Bejarano, 39, and Carlos Ortiz, 42, were found guilty Friday of conspiracy to transport and possession for sale of cocaine, transportation of cocaine, possession for sale of cocaine and possession of a hidden compartment.

They were arrested in February, 1994, after a two-day, undercover investigation by a California Department of Justice task force based in Riverside.

Officers raided a home in the 12700 block of Oxnard Street, where they recovered 987 kilos, or about 2,170 pounds, of cocaine, said Detective Brian McAuley, the case investigator and a task force member. The suspects were monitored as they moved a van, later found to have a false gas tank rigged to hold contraband, from a grocery store parking lot to the residence, McAuley said.

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The cocaine found at the residence was 95% pure, which McAuley said is three-times the quality of what is normally sold on the street. McAuley estimated the value of the drugs at $300 million.

Bejarano and Ortiz are scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

“We’re going to try for the max, probably 32 or 33 years,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. John Ramseyer, who is prosecuting the case.

Two others arrested in the raid--Walter Elias Navarro, 27, and Deise Esther Giraldo, 26, both of Boston--have already been sentenced. They had come to North Hollywood from Massachusetts with the intent of transporting the drugs to Florida, McAuley said.

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“We know for a fact that some of it was bound for Miami,” said McAuley. “There was a vehicle found with a false gas tank.”

Navarro pleaded guilty to possession of 16 kilos of cocaine for sale--the amount found in the van’s false gas tank--and was sentenced to nine years in state prison. Giraldo pleaded guilty to possession of a hidden compartment and was sentenced to a year in county jail.


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