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
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
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
significant is that police tracked street-level dealers to their
“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
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
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
“Burbank [Police] did an amazing job in order to dismantle this
cell,” he said.