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Central Los Angeles

Action Taken to Stop Alleged Drug Dealing at House

September 25, 1996|MAKI BECKER

It is a modest house in the 1400 block of East 20th Street, just south of downtown, nestled under overgrown trees and less than a block from an elementary school.

Yet police say two of the owners of the house have been arrested in the last couple of years for dealing drugs, and neighbors have watched helplessly as people formed long lines in the alley behind the house, waiting to buy crack cocaine.

So, on Tuesday, U.S. marshals began the process of seizing the house and evicting the owners.

Under federal narcotics asset forfeiture laws, the government can seize and auction properties once it proves they are being used for illegal drug activity.

Officer Bill Blount said drug buyers lined up in the alley "like it was a supermarket."

News that marshals had served the notice of seizure was announced at a press conference outside 20th Street Elementary School by city and federal officials.

"The message we are sending is that if you use your property to sell drugs, it can be taken away from you," said City Atty. James Hahn.

Sandra Medina, 21, one of the owners of the house, said the former owners sold drugs there. She said there has been no recent drug activity, but police said Medina's husband, George Ayala, was arrested earlier this year on suspicion of selling drugs, along with his brother, Arturo Ayala, who also lives there. No arrests were made Tuesday.

The house was identified as a problem through residents who are part of the Hooper Neighborhood Block Project, a task force created by the city attorney's office, the Los Angeles Police Department and the city Department of Building and Safety.

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