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Burbank Police bust suspected drug ring

Ben Godar

A three-year investigation led by Burbank Police culminated this week

in the arrests of several people suspected of importing

methamphetamine from Mexico and distributing it throughout the

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southwestern United States.

Burbank Police, the FBI and several other state and local agencies

have arrested at least 17 people in three states. All were linked to

members of the Lopez family, whose alleged drug distribution was

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based in the San Fernando Valley.

Authorities have seized more than 40 pounds of meth, almost 14

pounds of marijuana, more than 13 pounds of cocaine, about 120 guns,

eight vehicles and more than $600,000 in cash, police said. The

street value of the drugs seized is estimated at more than $2.4

million, police said.

While the amount of drugs seized is not unprecedented, Sgt. Omar

Rodriguez, who led the investigation, said what makes the case

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significant is that police tracked street-level dealers to their

supply source.

“Here, we’ve absolutely dismantled their organization,” he said.

“We’ve annihilated them.”

The investigation began in September 1999 when an informant told

Burbank Police that a group was importing meth into the area from a

cartel based in Colima, Mexico. Eventually, officers identified three

brothers -- Salvador, Luis and Rogelio Lopez -- as the leaders of the

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organization, Lt. Dave Gabriel said.

During the next few years, people with connections to the Lopez

brothers were arrested in California, Texas and Arkansas, but it

wasn’t until October 2002 that Luis Lopez was arrested. Lopez

allegedly ran the operation in Colima, and was arrested while in the

Los Angeles area on vacation.

While Luis Lopez was taken into custody peacefully, his brother

Rogelio was not. When police arrived at Rogelio Lopez’s Pacoima home

Feb. 20, police said he refused to come outside, and used his

4-year-old son as a human shield when police attempted to break down

the door. Officers were eventually able to pull the door off using an

armored vehicle, and Rogelio Lopez was arrested on suspicion of child

endangerment in addition to a variety of drug-related charges.

That same day, police attempted to arrest Salvador Lopez at his

Sun Valley home, but they believe he fled to Mexico, Rodriguez said.

Officers arrested a cousin of the Lopez brothers at a home

Wednesday in the 200 block of West Tujunga Avenue. Police arrested

Rogelio Arreguin, also known as Alex Santoyo, and seized a sniper

rifle, two other loaded guns, a Porsche, a Ford truck, drug

paraphernalia and about $60,000, Rodriguez said.

The home was one of several Arreguin moved between, and Rodriguez

said neighbors were probably unaware of his alleged drug connections.

“He’s not a street dealer, he’s doing major narcotics

trafficking,” he said. “He’s not somebody you would look at and

suspect.”

Those arrested in the case face a variety of state and federal

charges, including in some cases conspiracy charges that could lead

to a sentence of life in prison, Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Young

said.

“Burbank [Police] did an amazing job in order to dismantle this

cell,” he said.


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