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Ventura County

4 Held in Huge Drug Seizure

Crime: In one of the year's biggest local narcotics busts, deputies find $1.2 million worth of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine in home near Point Mugu.

September 01, 2002|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the second-largest drug bust this year in Ventura County, sheriff's deputies have arrested four Oxnard residents and seized more than $1 million worth of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.

The arrests ended a monthlong investigation that started when deputies received a tip that illegal drugs were being sold from a house on rural Dufau Road near the Point Mugu naval base, officials said late Friday.

According to Sgt. Bob Garcia, undercover detectives were able to purchase several small quantities of drugs at the house during the last few weeks. On Thursday afternoon, deputies set up a stakeout.

About 1 p.m. Thursday, deputies pulled over a car that was leaving the home, arrested three men and seized a small amount of illegal drugs, Garcia said. Taken into custody were Juan Cortez, 38, Hildardo Cardona, 61, and Francisco Hernandez, 23.

After obtaining a search warrant for the home, deputies arrested Maria Elena Aguirre, 25, and took her two young children into protective custody, authorities said.

Inside the home, deputies seized 19 pounds of cocaine, 6.8 pounds of heroin and 6.5 pounds of methamphetamine.

The approximate street value of the drugs, according to Garcia, was $1.2 million.

The drugs had been divided into various weights, including kilos, and were packaged for sale, authorities said.

"The detectives were not expecting to find the quantities they did, particularly of heroin," Garcia said in a written statement. "The seizure of heroin was particularly large as most seizures are often measured in grams and ounces."

Authorities believe the drugs were being sold throughout western Ventura County.

Besides drugs, deputies seized scales, packaging materials, written records about drug transactions and $50,000 in alleged drug proceeds.

The four suspects were booked into Ventura County Jail, each on suspicion of possessing drugs for sale and transportation of drugs. Cortez and Hernandez, considered the primary players, were being held on $1-million bail each and the bail for Cardona and Aguirre was set at $50,000 each.

The seizure marks the second major drug operation uncovered in the county this year. In early August, a Camarillo couple were arrested on suspicion of participating in a methamphetamine ring after deputies seized more than 30 pounds of the drug at three houses in Ventura County.

Rafael Escobar Marron, 35, remains in jail without bail and his girlfriend, Sandra Mares Garcia, 31, has since posted bail.

During Marron's arrest, deputies found 12 ounces of methamphetamine inside his pants. At his home, inside a safe encased in concrete and hidden under floorboards, deputies allegedly found another 8 pounds of methamphetamine.

Authorities also searched two Oxnard houses that were believed to be part of the operation and found 22 pounds of methamphetamine and 15 gallons of methamphetamine oil, which is used to make the drug.

Authorities valued the confiscated drugs and a clandestine lab that was also seized at nearly $2 million.

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