More than 20 people are facing federal drug trafficking charges after an early morning sweep throughout the county on Dec. 12 by a multi-agency task force looking to stem a local gang-affiliated narcotics ring.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- BAD BOYS, BAD BOYS : Sheriff’s deputies and probation officers took an unidentified man into custody at a Paso Robles motel as part of a sweeping anti-narcotics operation headed by the FBI. Faces have been blurred at the request of law enforcement for the safety of the narcotics officers.
The intended targets of the operation were people listed in federal indictments handed down this week in regard to a Central Coast-based drug network, according to officials.
Roughly 200 law enforcement officers took part in the well-coordinated effort, the culmination of more than a year’s worth of investigation, according to a news release.
Though the operation was spearheaded by the FBI, the team also included SLO County Sheriff’s deputies, officers from the county’s various municipal police departments, and representatives from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshall’s Office, the California Highway Patrol, the SLO County District Attorney’s Office, Probation Department, code enforcement, Social Services, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, and the Santa Maria Police Department.
According to a release from the FBI, the case began in 2011 when task force members identified numerous alleged members of a drug trafficking organization suspected of being affiliated with North County gangs such as “Paso 13,” “Underground Pride,” and “Wicked Minded Sureños.”
According to the indictments, the suspects dealt narcotics—including methamphetamine—in various capacities, sometimes in public parks or near schools.
Task force members made three arrests in an initial Sept. 18 sweep, which additionally netted weapons and about $80,000 in methamphetamine and cocaine, officials said.
Some 16 people were arrested on Dec. 12 in Paso Robles, San Jose, and San Diego, and authorities seized cash and narcotics estimated to have a street value of approximately $100,000, according to a news release.
One New Times reporter and one photographer were present with sheriff’s deputies as warrants were served at a Paso Robles motel off Spring Street, where at least two individuals were taken into custody.
All told, the operation netted 22 arrests.
The suspects are expected to be tried in federal court. If convicted of the charges, the defendants face statutory maximum sentences of 40 years to life in prison.