L.A. Now

5 suspected of trying to smuggle drugs into L.A. County Jail

A man convicted of murder after tattooing detailed images of the crime on his chest is now facing charges that he and two family members were part of a ring attempting to smuggle drugs into Los Angeles County Jail.

While investigating Anthony Garcia's role in a Pico Rivera slaying, Sgt. Kevin Lloyd of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said he found evidence that Garcia, his brother, mother and two others were conspiring to smuggle in heroin and methamphetamines.

All five have been arrested and are facing felony attempted narcotics smuggling charges.

Garcia was convicted last week of first-degree murder in the shooting death of John Juarez, 23, outside a Pico Rivera liquor store. The 2004 slaying had gone cold until Lloyd, flipping through photographs of gangsters, noticed a detailed ink rendering of the crime scene on Garcia's chest.

Detectives arrested Garcia on a minor charge and used a jailhouse decoy to get a confession out of him. While putting the case together, Lloyd found evidence of the alleged drug ring.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office filed drug-smuggling charges against Garcia's brother, John Garcia, earlier this month, and detectives arrested the parolee gang member. He was being held without bail.

Vivian Garcia, the 46-year-old mother of Anthony and John Garcia, was arrested this month when she went to visit John at the Pico Rivera sheriff's station. She was released April 12 on bond.

A fourth suspect, Manuel Bermudez, 32, is serving time in state prison on multiple felony convictions for narcotics and firearms offenses. When he turned himself in for his four-year term last June, intake officers found four golf-ball-sized balloons of heroin and methamphetamine in his rectum.

Cynthia Bermudez, the 29-year-old girlfriend of Manuel Bermudez, was arrested earlier this month at her Huntington Park residence and was released on $110,000 bond.

Sheriff's detectives say all five suspects worked together to smuggle drugs into the County Jail as Anthony Garcia was awaiting trial on the Pico Rivera homicide case. Lloyd worked with other sheriff's detectives to gather evidence in the case.

Sgt. Mike Thomas said that other than packages found on Manuel Bermudez, he did not have details on how the other suspects were plotting to get narcotics past jail officials. With trials pending, "they are not tipping their hand on that right now," he said.

But Thomas said illicit drugs get past jailhouse gates despite efforts to screen them out. Friends or family members often try to throw bindles of heroin or other drugs over a glass partition during face-to-face visits, he said. Drugs also find their way in through the mail, he said.

"We try our best," he said. "But there's always a way."

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