Massive Gilroy drug bust cuts off major distribution hub

Containers of raw methamphetamine that were waiting for

Police believe Thursday morning’s raid of a Gilroy home and
subsequent seizure of almost 500 pounds of methamphetamine and
cocaine has cut off one of the country’s primary drug distribution
See a video of the bust.
SKY7 Gilroy meth lab video.
Police believe Thursday morning’s raid of a Gilroy home and subsequent seizure of almost 500 pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine has cut off one of the country’s primary drug distribution hubs.

“This is the head of one of the bigger snakes out of Mexico,” said Lt. Fred Links with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s department, the agency that led the investigation.

The drug task force also served federal and state search warrants at locations in Modesto and Sacramento, but “Gilroy was the mother lode,” said one of Links’ sergeants.

Police recovered more than 460 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 15 pounds of cocaine, $35,000 in cash and two firearms. They estimated the street value of the seized drugs to be more than $100 million.

About 7 a.m. Thursday morning, the Sacramento Sheriff’s multi-agency drug task forces concluded a yearlong investigation into a major Mexico-based drug trafficking organization with the arrests of three men at a rural, east Gilroy residence. Police booked Mexican nationals Fabian Figueroa Ayala, 28, Sergio Murillo Valencia, 35, and Hector Borraya Salazar, 43, into the Santa Clara County Main Jail. They will eventually be transferred to the Sacramento County Main Jail on multiple felony charges, including possession of methamphetamine for sale and manufacturing of methamphetamine, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have also placed immigration holds on all three suspects.

The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department launched the investigation about a year ago after learning of a Mexican drug-trafficking organization believed to be bringing sizable amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine into the Central California area, Links said. Through a series of investigation and surveillance operations, his team believes they were able to identify most of the key players who were organizing lines of distribution into the Central Valley, which is the “jump off point” for the rest of the nation, Links said.

Investigators believe the home located at 2250 Roop Road, about two miles east of the Gilroy Premium Outlets, housed the primary methamphetamine manufacturing and distribution hub for the entire California Central Valley. Further, they believe the Roop Road home was the major source of methamphetamine for illegal drug operations throughout the nation.

“It’s the biggest that I know north of the Grapevine,” Links said, referring to a region just north of Los Angeles. “L.A.’s another story. The closer you get to the border towns, the seizures are just ridiculous. I’ve worked all over the western states for years and, if you take L.A. out of the equation, I’ve never heard of this size of a seizure being made at one location.”

Given its purity, every pound of the methamphetamine seized Thursday could potentially yield four to five pounds of the street-level drug, Links said.

“If you look at their purity, this particular dope we’ve been getting from this organization is about 98 percent pure,” Links said, adding the purity of street-level methamphetamine hovers around 30 to 40 percent. “Junk dope’s even less.”

Neighbors said they had no idea the men were operating one of the largest meth distribution centers in California.

“I can’t imagine our neighbors doing that,” said Fatima Rodriguez, 27.

Rodriguez and her family have lived in a house across the street from 2250 Roop for about eight years. She guessed the three men moved in about a year and a half ago. In a neighborhood where lots are large and many residents own horses and other livestock, the neighbors still knew each other pretty well, Rodriguez said.

“But they never talked to anybody,” she said of the three men who were arrested. “They never did anything. I thought maybe they worked all day.”

The house may have appeared innocuous to neighbors from the outside, but inside told a different story. About noon Thursday, detectives, scouring the residence for drugs, didn’t have to look far. Dozens of gallon-sized thermos containers filled to the brim with raw methamphetamine and bags stuffed with packaged kilos of cocaine spilled from kitchen cabinets, closets and bathroom cupboards. A dozen bins of several-inch-long crystals were in rows in an unfurnished bedroom littered with packages of Ziploc containers, rubber gloves, scales and cooling fans.

Police found drugs and paraphernalia in almost every room of the house, from the garage to the bathrooms. Drugs spilled from closets and drawers and a Sacramento Sheriff’s Detective knelt on the floor of a bathroom, entering at least a dozen clear plastic bags of methamphetamine into evidence.

“Usually we don’t see them much bigger than the size of a fingernail,” he said, holding up a chunk of crystal meth the size of his hand.

Men in hazardous material suits worked to dispose of toxic chemicals used to process the drugs. They laid the chemicals out on a tarp on the front lawn while a dozen or so unmarked police cars lined the road in front of the residence. Police believe the men were converting methamphetamine brought up from Mexico from its raw form to the street drug and packaging it at the home.

Commonly known as “speed” or “meth,” methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Most of the methamphetamine used in the United States comes from foreign or domestic superlabs, but the drug can also easily be made in small, covert laboratories, with cheap over-the-counter ingredients, according to the NIDA.

In addition to the drugs, police believe the men may have been using their property for cock fighting and dog fighting. Several pens of roosters dotted the expansive backyard. Inside the house, empty cases of Budweiser light beer littered the rooms and a rather elaborate shrine to the Virgin Mary complete with candles and flowers adorned the mantle.

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Police made a drug bust at 2250 Roop Ave. at 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

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