SANTA ANA — Police seized almost 700 pounds of cocaine, worth about $32 million, and arrested four men living next to an intermediate school on suspicion of drug trafficking for a major Los Angeles organization, detectives said Thursday.
Ending an investigation that began in Los Angeles two months ago, Santa Ana and Los Angeles police detectives arrested the men after 11 p.m. Wednesday as they were leaving a Santa Ana house where they allegedly had been trafficking the cocaine, Los Angeles Police Lt. Frank Valdez said.
The house is in the 1800 block of McClay Street, a "very nice neighborhood," Valdez said, and next to Sierra Intermediate School.
"There's nothing separating the house from the school, other than a chain-link fence," Valdez said. "It was that close to the school."
The suspects, Octavio Bautista, 24; Camilo Medina, 23; Juan Nolasco, 21; and Rafael Torrez, 25, apparently had been living there for a month, Valdez said.
The house served as a "crash pad. It didn't appear to be lived in. The interior was semi-barren and clean," Valdez said.
Investigators were staking out the house about 11 Wednesday night when they saw the four men leave in a van and another car. Santa Ana police stopped the van while Los Angeles detectives pulled over the other car near a motel, Valdez said.
In the back of the van, police allegedly found six boxes of cocaine packaged in one-kilo bags, and additional cocaine in a suitcase, netting a total of about 690 pounds of drugs, police said. Investigators also confiscated $5,000 in cash.
"This was a substantial amount of drugs," Valdez said. "It's a good size case and it's definitely a major case. These guys are major narcotics purveyors, but this is a far cry from a warehouse case. This is certainly not going to impact the cost of 'rock' on the street."
Valdez added that Santa Ana police have confiscated larger quantities of drugs this year.
"Santa Ana's got a major narcotics crew," Valdez said. "They are an exceptional outfit. From my knowledge, they have done things bigger than this in the last year."
Santa Ana narcotics investigators could not be reached for comment.
News of the arrests did not surprise a neighbor of more than 40 years on McClay, which has mostly three-bedroom homes.
The arrest "is not unexpected," said the resident, who declined to identify himself. "There's usually a lot of traffic and a lot of cars" near that house.