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Independence drug ring busted

INDEPENDENCE -- An investigation that started with complaints about suspicious activity in Independence neighborhoods ended last week as one of the biggest drug busts in Polk County history.

January 15, 2013

INDEPENDENCE -- An investigation that started with complaints about suspicious activity in Independence neighborhoods ended last week as one of the biggest drug busts in Polk County history.

Officers with multiple police agencies, including the Polk County Interagency Narcotics Team (POINT), arrested 11 suspects in an early-morning raid Jan. 9 to conclude a seven-month investigation into a drug distribution ring.

"As a supervisor of POINT it makes me feel good that the team was able to make this case happen with the limited resources we have," said Sgt. Mark Garton of POINT, which initiated the investigation in July. "My guys put in a lot of extra time."

His team's effort helped seize unusually high quantities of methamphetamine and heroin. In one related search of a car stopped in Douglas County, officers found 6.5 pounds of methamphetamine and one pound of heroin.

"It is very significant in the number of people arrested and the amount (of drugs) they had been dealing," said Sgt. Rick Igou of the Independence Police Department, which was one of 13 agencies involved in shutting down the ring.

The investigation ended with a literal bang as the Oregon State Police SWAT raided two homes Jan. 9, deploying "flashbangs" at one of the residences. Flashbangs are a type of non-lethal grenade designed to stun and disorient people.

Garton said some of the suspects were considered dangerous, so OSP SWAT decided to use the devices to avoid a confrontation.

The Polk County Special Response Team served a search warrant on a third location. According to investigators, the suspects had been transporting drugs from California to Independence to sell.

Garton said POINT had an incredible amount of help from outside agencies, noting OSP's involvement early on and financial assistance from Western States Information Network, which provides grants to pay for lengthy drug investigations.

"If we didn't have their support, this case wouldn't have happened," Garton said. "We don't have the funding to run a case this long."

In all, 13 people were arrested, all of whom were arraigned Thursday in Polk County Circuit Court.

Garton said evidence will continue to be processed and more arrests may occur. While plenty of work remains, local officers expressed a sense of relief to have stopped the operation.

"We knew there was illegal activity going on and wanted to (put a stop to it), but we also wanted to do a thorough investigation," Igou said. "It's one of those things that the whole (Independence) department has wanted to see come to an end. (It) was a pretty rewarding day in that regard."

Arrested were:

* Juan Jose Virelas-Solorzano, 34, of Independence on charges of racketeering, six counts of delivering methamphetamine and one count of delivering cocaine. Bail: $6.7 million and an U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold.

* Noralba Virelas-Pineda, 32, of Independence on charges of delivering methamphetamine, delivering heroin, conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine and conspiracy to deliver heroin. Bail: $2 million and an ICE hold.

* Noe Nunez-Manzo, 28, of Independence on charges of racketeering and two counts of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. Bail $6.7 million.

* Jose Bertin Cruz-Estrada, 22, of Independence on charges of racketeering and conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. Bail: $500,000 and an ICE hold.

* Collene Amelia Walker, 37, of Independence on a charge of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. Bail: $50,000.

* Raul Megel Rodriquez, 29, of Independence on a charge of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. Out on $50,000 bail.

* Brenda Diaz-Diaz, 21, of Keizer on a charge of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. Bail: $40,000.

* Lisandro Rangel-Garcia, 22, of Independence on charges of racketeering, five counts of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine and conspiracy to deliver cocaine. Bail: $6.7 million. Rangel-Garcia was already in jail, arrested Dec. 20 on a probation violation and warrants.

* Roberto Ruiz-Sandoval, 42, of Independence on charges of racketeering and two counts of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. Bail: $6.7 million. Ruiz-Sandoval was already in jail, arrested Dec. 1 on a driving under the influence charge.

* Efrain Aispuro-Carrasco, 44, of Independence on charges of racketeering, 11 counts of delivering methamphetamine and two counts of conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. Bail: $6.7 million.

* Rafael Telliz-Solorzano, 38, of Independence on charges of possession of methamphetamine and delivery of methamphetamine. Bail: $505,000 and an ICE hold.

* Sergio Gustavo Pineda-Villanueva, 23, and Faliciano Ayala-Cardenas, 31, were arrest Dec. 8, both on charges of racketeering, distribution of methamphetamine and distribution of heroin after their car was stopped in Douglas County carrying drugs. Pineda-Villanueva is being held on $200,000 bail and an ICE hold and Ayala-Cardenas is being held on $100,000 bail and an ICE hold.

Seized in the raid:

Three vehicles, two firearms, several computers and 12.9 grams of methamphetamine. Estimated street value of all drugs seized during this operation was $120,000 in methamphetamine and $19,000 for heroin.

Four minor children were taken into protective custody and will be placed in foster care. The childrens' parents are Juan Jose Virelas-Solorzano and Noralba Virelas-Pineda.

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