Joint task force busts suspected Paso family drug ring



As police tell the story, Gavino Guerrero is both the patriarch of his family and the leader of an international drug ring —and most of the time, it’s been difficult to show where one group starts and the other ends.

Guerrero, officials say, has been traveling to Mexico and arranging to have methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine shipped across the boarder; first to Escondido, and then to his family’s Paso Robles home. “Don’t touch this stuff. It’ll make you crazy,� the father allegedly told one of his young children, before burying packets of methamphetamine in the yard.

But police don’t think that all of Guerrero’s kids were given the same advice: They say that three other children, ages 15 to 21, picked up money and delivered drugs around Paso Robles for their father and mother.

“The amount distributed means I can conservatively say [the ring’s drugs] were reaching the four corners of this county and other counties as well,� said Tyler Burtis, commander of the San Luis Obispo County Narcotic Task Force.

This week a collaboration of SLO County, Santa Barbara County, state, and federal law enforcement agencies announced that they’d arrested Guerrero, his wife Bernardina, and two of their daughters, Adela and Eliselda, along with 14 other people and have charged them with violating federal and state drug laws.

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Burtis stood with several local police chiefs and David Wales — from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — and showed off pictures of what they’d found in Escondido and say was going to be shipped to Paso Robles: more than 13 pounds of ice — a high-grade form of methamphetamine — more than $73,000 in cash, 43 grams of heroin, 3.5 grams of cocaine, and several handguns and rifles.

Wales called the ring’s members “very sophisticated,� and described how they used a coded language to arrange distribution in SLO and Santa Barbara counties.

“In removing this family, we had a devastating effect on the distribution of methamphetamine in this county,� Burtis said.

The six people arrested for violating federal drug charges (which includes Guerrero and his wife) have been transferred to prison in Los Angeles. The 12 people charged with violating state laws (which include Guerrero’s daughters) have posted bail and have been released from the San Luis Obispo County jail.

Dennis Cassidy, Paso Robles chief of police, said that the various county and state agencies expect to make more arrests related to this case in the coming weeks. People with information are invited to call 549-3415 or their local law enforcement agency.

—Abraham Hyatt

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