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Police bust suspected North County drug ring

Posted: Thursday, Jun 18th, 2009




Twenty-one suspects were arrested in connection with an alleged drug trafficking ring at the California Men’s Colony including three of its own employees, a Los Angeles teacher and members of a North County gang.

Law enforcement officials served simultaneous search warrants at 11 different locations in San Luis Obispo County on Monday and Tuesday in what was dubbed Operation Broken Badge.

The operation — undertaken by San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department narcotics detectives with the assistance of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and SLO County Narcotics Task Force — targeted a long-term narcotics trafficking operation involving state prison inmates, employees and visitors at the SLO-based prison. Most of the suspects were from the North County.

“Operation Broken Badge allowed us to assist the California Department of Corrections in removing persons from their organization that were on the wrong side of the bars,” Sheriff Pat Hedges said in a statement. “It is always difficult when law enforcement agencies have to take direct action to arrest their own employees for alleged misconduct, however we must preserve the public trust and take decisive action each time a situation of this kind is detected.”

A tip led to the possibility that CDCR employees and others were involved in the suspected drug activity, Sheriff’s officials said. Operation Broken Badge involved two parallel investigations both outside and inside the prison, which at one point came together, Hedges said. He said he was not sure what the business practices were inside the prison but that there was an inside organization.

David Wales, ICE resident agent in charge, said the defendants arrested in the operation have for years been bringing in large quantities of methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana from Mexico to sell to their extensive network of private customers and incarcerated criminals at CMC. The amount or value of drugs smuggled was not released.

“Truly chilling is the fact that the individuals taken into custody include not only local gang members, but CDC employees who used their connections to promote criminal activity at the prison, and even a grade school teacher who by profession, should be a community role model,” Wales said.

The arrestee list included two CMC correctional officers and CMC clerk, mail processor, psych tech, bartender, construction worker, ranch owner and wiremaker, along with many individuals classified as unemployed. The suspects could face charges including trafficking narcotics, conspiracy and other associated charges, according to Sheriff’s officials.

In addition to the local search warrants, NTF agents served one similar search warrant in southern California.

A man from the Los Angeles area remained outstanding as of press time. Federico Solorio Pineda, 49, is described as five foot, six inches, 126 pounds with brown hair and eyes. Pineda was being sought on $500,000 bail warrant that charged sale of controlled substances. Authorities in the Los Angeles area were looking for Pineda, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

A formal press conference was held on Wednesday at the SLO County Sheriff Department’s Kansas Avenue headquarters. There, CMC/CDCR warden John Marshall, Wales, Grover Beach Police Department Chief and chairman of the board of governors for NTF Jim Copsey, Hedges, SLOSO Narcotic Unit supervisor Rick Neufeld and Sheriff’s spokesman Rob Bryn shared information gleaned from the investigation and responded to questions from the media.

Hedges said the District Attorney is expected to convene a criminal grand jury to hear testimony to secure criminal indictments. He said that no evidence exists to suggest that prison employees were involved in bringing the drugs into the prison. The three CMC employees had transferred from the El Paso de Robles Youth Correctional Facility when it closed in August 2008, he said.

Wales commended the Sheriff’s Department, the NTF and CDCR for their outstanding work on the case and described it as a prime example of multi-agency cooperation and teamwork.

“By pooling our expertise and our resources, we have succeeded in dismantling a criminal organization that, for the past several years, has been a major threat to public safety here in San Luis Obispo County,” he said.

In his remarks, Marshall described the involvement of the CMC in the joint task force as further evidence that the county has a team effort approach in dealing with the criminal element and protecting the public.

CMC responded to a request by local law enforcement to provide additional staff to assist with the operation, Marshall said.

“The outcome was worth the effort, and the community greatly benefited from this endeavor,” he said. “Fortunately, as a result of our combined efforts, this dangerous drug trafficking ring is out of business, and the residents of California’s Central Coast are safer.”

The Operation Broken Badge arrestee list includes the following individuals:

*Luciano Jose Arano, Jr., 46, Paso Robles, CDCR correctional officer, arrested on suspicion of transport/sale of controlled substance, transport for sale between counties, conspiracy.

*Lisa Kay Arano, 43, Paso Robles, unemployed, arrested on suspicion of transport, sale of controlled substance, conspiracy.

*Jose Antonio Holguin, 25, Paso Robles, unemployed, arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sale, furnishing marijuana/hashish, transport/sale of controlled substance, possession of controlled substance for sale, conspiracy.

*Toby Jean Holguin, 35, Paso Robles, bartender, arrested on suspicion of being an accessory.

*Alexander Ruben Morones, 52, Paso Robles, CDCR correctional officer, arrested on suspicion of transport/sale of controlled substance, possession of controlled substance in prison, possession of drugs in prison, conspiracy.

*Abraham Enrique Martinez, 32, Paso Robles, unemployed, arrested on suspicion of transport/sale of controlled substance, transport for sale between counties, conspiracy.

*Carlton Allen Pickens, 44, Paso Robles, unemployed, arrested on suspicion of supplying a minor with controlled substances, under the influence of a controlled substance, transport/sale of a controlled substance, possession of methamphetamine for sale, conspiracy.

*Darla Lynn Reece, 46, Paso Robles, unemployed, arrested on suspicion of transport/sale of controlled substance, conspiracy.

*Elisa Christina Espinoza, 24, Atascadero, unemployed, arrested on suspicion of two counts of willful cruelty to a child with possible injury, transport/sale of controlled substance, conspiracy.

*Lynnette Elaine Thompson, 39, Templeton, clerk at California Men’s Colony, arrested on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child with possible injury, transport/sale of controlled substance, possession of controlled substance, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia and conspiracy.

*Erin Jacqueline Sprouse, 35, Paso Robles, mail processor, arrested on suspicion of transport/sale of controlled substance, conspiracy.

*Teena Marie Shaw, 36, Paso Robles, psych tech, arrested on suspicion of transport/sale of controlled substance, conspiracy.

*Karin Jean Sorensen, 30, Paso Robles, Web designer, arrested on suspicion of transport/sale of controlled substance, conspiracy.

*Donald John Margetta, 60, Atascadero, construction, arrested on suspicion of transport/sale of controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale, conspiracy.

*Josefat Soloria, 71, Paso Robles, field worker, arrested on suspicion of presenting false identification to a peace officer.

*Michael Lewis Kemak, 47, Paso Robles, ranch owner, arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia.

*Guadalupe Ruiz, 32, teacher, Los Angeles, arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance, transport/sale of controlled substance, possession of marijuana for sale, transport/sale of marijuana, conspiracy.

*Ramiro Soto Valdez, 39, inmate, sentence enhancement prior conviction, habitual criminal, conspiracy.

*Olmeda Jose Juan Gonzalez, 38, Paso Robles, landscaper, arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance for sale.

*Deborah Jean Spickert, 47, Atascadero, unemployed, arrested on suspicion of transport/sale of controlled substance, conspiracy.

*Joseph Aloysius Farley, 45, Templeton, wire maker, arrested on suspicion of transport/sale of controlled substance, possession of controlled substance, conspiracy.





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