Operation Garlic Press yields stiff prison terms

A board displays mug shots of suspects arrested during Operation Garlic Press.

More than a year after Gilroy police helped spearhead the largest undercover sting in the department’s history, the fruit of their labor continues to manifest as more than a third of 118 arrested criminals have been dealt the heavy hand of justice.

Known as “Operation Garlic Press,” the 16-month Gilroy-centered endeavor spanned March 2010 to October 2011 and was executed with the assistance of 38 state and county law enforcement agencies.

Of the 118 arrested, 46 faced federal charges. To date, approximately 43 of those offenders were sentenced in federal court to charges relating to drugs, weapons, gang activity and stolen cars. Dozens of those criminals will serve between 10 and 20 years in prison.

“It is certainly gratifying to know that the majority of the cases that were charged federally have been adjudicated,” said Police Chief Denise Turner. “These types of intricate investigations often take more than a year to prosecute.”

OGP represents the biggest undercover effort in Gilroy police history, attracting media from across Northern California to the Garlic Capital. State Attorney General Kamala Harris spoke at City Hall Oct. 14, praising the cooperation of all the law enforcement agencies and lauding the work of Turner.

Now, as 2012 comes to a close, officers are pleased with how expeditiously the 43 of 46 federal cases have moved through the court system.

“Normally cases take a lot longer than that in my experience,” said Police Sgt. Joseph Deras, who leads the GPD Anti-Crime team. “But the evidence we had on these guys was overwhelming, so it moved pretty fast.”

The behemoth OGP undertaking burst onto the public radar in the early hours of Oct. 14, when police nabbed 118 criminals from all over South County and the Central Coast.

The dramatic roundup came on the heels of a delicate undercover ploy, which was facilitated for months out of an unassuming little store known as Bobby’s Place on the 6700 block of Brem Lane near Garlic City RV Park.

Bobby – a Gilroy Police officer whose real name cannot be published – became buddies with gang members, organizing drug deals and turning his venue into a hotspot for criminals.

Dressing down in tank tops and baggy jeans while working in his “man cave” automotive store, Bobby built a reputation in the seedy underbelly of the Garlic Capital as a man who would buy all kinds of illegal goods at a fair price.

Over the course of the operation, Gilroy Police bought 87 stolen vehicles, 47 illegal firearms, three pounds of methamphetamine, 28.5 grams of heroin as well as marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy from unsuspecting criminals – 51 of them known gang members. Criminals bragged to their buddies about the haven for illegal sales in Gilroy, and people began flocking from all over the county and the Central Coast to do dirty dealings with Bobby.

The façade came tumbling down in October 2011 when Gilroy Police and other assisting agencies arrested the suspects in a four-day blitz, busting the suspects with piles of recorded evidence of their illegal sales that would later be used to bring them down in court.

The lengthy list of offenders includes Gilroy’s Lilia Valderrama, who pled guilty Dec. 11 to charges relating to selling methamphetamine to officers during OGP. Her sentencing is scheduled for March 13, 2013.

“She’ll get a good sentencing,” Deras speculated.

Valderrama is notorious among OGP officers for selling meth in front of her workplace at an undisclosed Gilroy dentistry office, according to Deras, who said the dentist had no idea that Valderrama was dealing drugs from the office.

“She bagged the dope in those little baggies the dentist gives to patients, and met us six feet outside the front door of her workplace,” said Deras.

As for the remaining 72 out of 118 cases that were sent to state court, about 90 percent are still in the midst of prosecution and will be for quite some time, according Deras. The federal cases moved quickly because the cases were so cut-and-dry, and also because the suspects prosecuted federally tended to be career criminals with lengthy rap sheets and a history with the court system, Deras explained.

“For the federal cases, we focused on the real career criminals to get them in prison for good amount of time,” he said.  

The average sentence for the 43 OGP criminals is 6.44 years along with many years of parole.

Gilroy resident Paul Zabala, a regular face to the Gilroy Police Department even before OGP, was among the handful of suspects who received the longest sentences. Zabala plead guilty March 29 to three counts of distributing methamphetamine and was slapped with 20 years in federal prison.

Of the three remaining federal suspects awaiting sentencing, two of the cases will progress quickly, according to Deras, while one suspect bailed out of custody and fled out of the area.

“We wanted to send a message to the criminal element in our community, and those that come here to engage in criminal activity,” said Turner. “Our organization will relentlessly work to dissuade them and any intent they have to bring harm to our community.”

 

Operation Garlic Press sentences

Arianna Baca pled guilty on July 26, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. Baca was sentenced Nov. 1, 2012, to 78 months in prison, to be followed by 48 months of supervised release.

Izaeus Banda pled guilty on March 12, 2012, to a violation of 21 USC 841. Banda was sentenced on June 4, 2012, to 60 months in prison, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Scott Burns pled guilty on March 12, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1), 26 USC 5861, and 21 USC 841. Burns was sentenced on June 4, 2012, to 100 months in prison, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Frank Cardenas pled guilty on April 23, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1) and 21 USC 841. Cardenas was sentenced on July 9, 2012, to 60 months in prison to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Arturo Cervantes pled guilty on April 2, 2012, to violations of 26 USC 5861 and 21 USC 841. Cervantes was sentenced on Aug. 6, 2012, to 60 months in prison to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Christina Chavez pled guilty on Aug 6, 2012, to a violation of 21 USC 844(a). Chavez was sentenced on Nov. 5, 2012, to 24 months in prison to be followed by 12 months of supervised release.

Yvonne Chavez pled guilty on July 9, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 7, 2013.

Juan Chavez-Ornelas pled guilty on March 5, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846, as well as 8 USC 1326. Chavez-Ornelas was sentenced on Aug. 6, 2012, to 87 months in prison, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Rodolfo Contreras pled guilty on March 14, 2012, to a violation of 21 USC 841. Contreras was sentenced on May 30, 2012, to 60 months in prison, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Melissa Duarte pled guilty on July 19, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 17, 2012.

Dagoberto Duran pled guilty on March 22, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. Duran was sentenced on Aug. 9, 2012, to 72 months in prison, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Desiree Flores pled guilty on June 28, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. Flores was sentenced on Nov. 15, 2012, to 60 months in prison, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Joshua Flores pled guilty on March 7, 2012, to violating 21 USC 841. He was sentence on May 23, 2012, to 180 months in prison, to be followed by120 months of supervised release.

Raymond Gallegos pled guilty on Oct. 1, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841; and 846. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 17, 2012.

Adrian Gamino pled guilty on Dec. 21, 2011, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. He was sentenced on March 7, 2012, to 240 months in prison, to be followed by120 months of supervised release.

Lorenzo Garcia pled guilty on April 18, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 13, 2013.

Jose Gonzalez pled guilty on Aug. 29, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1) and 21 USC 841 and 846. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 23, 2013.

Miguel Gonzalez pled guilty on Dec. 21, 2011, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. He was sentenced on March 7, 2012, to 240 months in prison, to be followed by 120 months of supervised release.

Gustavo Hernandez pled guilty on May 14, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. He was sentenced on Sept. 10, 2012, to 60 months in prison, to be followed by 48 months of supervised release.

Maria Hernandez pled guilty on Oct. 31, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 23, 2013.

Simon Hernandez pled guilty on May 21, 2012, to violating 21 USC 841. He was sentenced on Aug 6, 2012, to 84 months in prison, to be followed by 120 months of supervised release.

Frank Herrera pled guilty on April 2, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1) and 922(k). He was sentenced on June 18, 2012, to 57 months in prison, to be followed by 36 months of supervised release.

Henry Jones pled guilty on March 5, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1) and 922(k). He was sentenced on May 21, 2012, to 57 months in prison, to be followed by 36 months of supervised release.

Ricardo Landecho pled guilty on Dec. 3, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841and 846. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 25, 2013.

Frank Machado pled guilty on Jan. 19, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. He was sentenced on March 22, 2012, to 60 months in prison, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Diana Mayoral pled guilty on May 10, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. She was sentenced on Nov. 29, 2012, to 6 months in prison, to be followed by 48 months of supervised release.

Rosa Martinez pled guilty of June 7, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. She was sentenced on Nov. 15, 2012, to 70 months in prison, to be followed by 48 months of supervised release.

Joshua Moore pled guilty on April 19, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 21 USC 846. He was sentenced on Nov. 29, 2012, to 60 months in prison, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Addel Montero pled guilty on June 18, 2012, to violating of 21 USC 841 and was sentenced on Oct. 1, 2012, to 72 months in prison, to be followed by 48 months of supervised release.

Hugo Mora pled guilty on July 11, 2012, to violating of 21 USC 841. He was sentenced on Sept. 26, 2012, to 68 months in prison, to be followed by 48 months of supervised release.

KC Pries pled guilty on March 12, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1) and 26 USC 5861. Pries was sentenced in June 4, 2012, to 63 months in prison, to be followed by 36 months of supervised release.

Enrique Quintero pled guilty on July 9, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. He was sentenced on Oct. 15, 2012, to 240 months in prison, to be followed by 120 months of supervised release.

Rigoberto Ramirez pled guilty on July 16, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1) and 21 USC 841. He was sentenced on Oct. 22, 2012, to 60 months in prison, to be followed by 120 months of supervised release.

Robert Reddick pled guilty on Feb. 23, 2012, to violating 18 USC 922(g)(1). He was sentenced on June 7, 2012, to 9 months in prison, to be followed by 24 months of supervised release.

Cala Remick pled guilty on July 12, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. Remick is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 12, 2012.

Everardo Robles pled guilty on Feb. 16, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1) and 21 USC 846. He was sentenced on May 3, 2012, to 108 months in prison, to be followed by 120 months of supervised release.

Jose Romero pled guilty on July 26, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1), 26 USC 5861(d) and 21 USC 841. He was sentenced on Nov. 5, 2012, to 84 months in prison, to be followed by120 months of supervised release.

Michael Ruelas pled guilty on April 18, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1) as well as 21 USC 841 and 846. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 13, 2013.

David Sainz pled guilty on July 26, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. He was sentenced on Nov. 5, 2012, to 188 months in prison, to be followed by 60 months of supervised release.

Jimmy Sandoval pled guilty on March 1, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. He was sentenced on May 31, 2012, to 70 months in prison, to be followed by 48 months of supervised release.

Leonardo Silga pled guilty on March 19, 2012, to violations of 18 USC 922(g)(1) and 21 USC 846. He was sentenced on Oct. 1, 2012, to 240 months in prison, to be followed by 120 months of supervised release.

Paul Zabala pled guilty on March 29, 2012, to violations of 21 USC 841 and 846. He was sentenced on July 12, 2012, to 180 months in prison, to be followed by120 months of supervised release.

Legend
18 USC 922(g)(1)  Fugitives from justice
18 USC 922(k) Firearms
21 USC 841 Prohibited acts
21 USC 844(a) Possession of illegal substances
21 USC 846 Conspiracy
26 USC 5861 Prohibited acts

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