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Orange County Focus

SANTA ANA : Drug-Trafficking Probe to Continue

May 25, 1994|JAIME ABDO

Despite seizing $20 million worth of cocaine and arresting 18 people, a drug task force will continue its investigation into a cocaine-trafficking operation, Sheriff Brad Gates said Tuesday.

Gates said others connected with the drug ring are believed scattered across the country.

"More arrests are expected to follow," Gates said. "We are waiting . . . for local law enforcement to finish the paperwork."

Gates wouldn't specify where the suspects are or the extent of their involvement.

It took investigators eight months to arrest Samuel Moreno, a 46-year-old Santa Fe Springs resident, whom police identified as the kingpin of the organization. The drug ring, code-named "Telemundo" throughout the investigation because the suspects allegedly used a communications company with the same name as a front, was concentrated in Southern California, officials said.

Investigators said they were able to link Moreno to drug trafficking and money laundering through a tap placed on his cellular phone.

About 249 pounds of cocaine and $2.3 million in cash were seized during the course of seven drug raids, which began last September and ended in January. The arrests were announced Monday.

"We've had larger seizures, sure, but the significance here is that we were able to take out a whole organization," sheriff's spokesman Lt. Dan Martini said.

Investigators discovered that the communications company, based in Huntington Park, issued pagers and cellular phones under fictitious names and used them to arrange air transportation for suspected drug traffickers.

All 18 suspects are being held in Los Angeles County Jail. Their bond averages $2 million each. None are from Southern California, nor did they own any businesses in the area.

Among those arrested were 11 Colombians, two of them naturalized U.S. citizens, six Mexican nationals and one American citizen.

The drug task force includes the Orange County Regional Narcotics Suppression Program, the Los Angeles district attorney's office, the Inland Regional Narcotics Enforcement Team, Los Angeles Impact, Southeast Cities Against Narcotics and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

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