Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon and Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 1:43 PM
Authorities said 18 people arrested as a result of a 1 1/2-year-long investigation by the Combined Anti-Drug Task Force were funneling “lab-quality” methamphetamine into Calcasieu Parish.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Havana Speed,” involved several people with ties to horse racing, people living in the U.S. illegally and possibly a murder.
Authorities announced the results of the operation at a news conference at the Lake Charles Police Department on Thursday. Representatives from Lake Charles and Vinton police, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, state police, the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office and the Office of Homeland Security were present. Other law enforcement agencies were also involved.
On Monday, more than 120 officers began executing search warrants and arresting suspects in Louisiana and Texas.
In total 11 search warrants were issued, resulting in the seizure of “pounds” of crystal meth and several weapons and the discovery of three active meth labs, Don Dixon, Lake Charles police chief, said.
Dixon said the suspected leaders of the organization are Mario Barrazacorral, who is being held in Texas; Sergio Reyes Castillo; and Lazaro Perez Cribeiro, of Cuban descent.
Cribeiro and Castillo are being held in the Calcasieu Correctional Center.
“This investigation began over a year and half ago as a result of a huge influx of crystal meth in Southwest Louisiana,” Dixon said.
The investigation involved numerous undercover buys, and many hours of surveillance, including aerial surveillance, he said.
“The investigation determined lab-quality crystal meth was being transported from locations in Texas to the Vinton-Starks area of west Calcasieu Parish,” Dixon said.
The operation took a turn when one of the subjects of the investigation went missing in May. The body of Jose Guadaloupe Perez Campos, 34, was pulled from the Neches River in Texas a few days later.
“Once this happened, many of our targets ... kind of ceased operations and took off,” Tony Mancuso, Calcasieu Parish sheriff, said. “It posed a problem for us because here we are in the midst of a big drug operation and now we have a possible homicide.”
Mancuso said the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Campos, in the country illegally, were suspicious enough to treat the investigation as a homicide, but that many questions still remain.
He said that while official autopsy results from Jefferson County, Texas, have not been released, preliminary results indicate “the injuries he sustained, possibly in Louisiana, may not have been life-threatening” and he could have been alive when he entered the river.
Mancuso said Campos also had a large amount of drugs in his system, so authorities are trying to determine whether he entered the river on his own — possibly because he was high — or whether someone pushed him in.
There are several suspects, Mancuso said.
“We know foul play in some manner has taken place in Louisiana,” he said. “Is it a homicide or is it an accidental death?”
Lab-quality crystal meth usually arrives in the states from “super labs” in Mexico, Dixon said.
He said the bust was significant because of the rise of crystal meth in the area over the past years. He said it has possibly surpassed cocaine as the most prevalent drug in Southwest Louisiana.
“We did not just want to do the little local buys,” Dixon said. “We wanted to find out where these drugs were coming from, and we wanted to smash the distribution rings.”
Of the suspects arrested, most had some tie to horse racing — either as an owner, a jockey or a trainer, Dixon said.
“That seemed to be the central theme,” he said.
Authorities would not say whether any of the suspects were employed by Delta Downs, but no officials at the racetrack were targets of the investigation, Mancuso said.
The sting led to the seizure of “assets from the horse-racing industry” as well as a large amount of steroids used on horses, Dixon said.
That information has been turned over to the Louisiana Racing Commission to be investigated.
• Sergio Reyes Castillo, 47, 5101 U.S. 90 West, Apt. 2, Vinton — 80 counts of attempt and conspiracy.
• Alvin Smith III, 24, 5115 U.S. 90 West, Vinton — eight counts of attempt and conspiracy. Bond: $3.2 million.
• Steven Thomas Mitchell, 40, 1613 Stevenson St., Vinton — six counts of attempt and conspiracy, drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and illegal possession of a weapon during commission of a crime or in presence of drugs. Bond: $2,100,500.
• James Celestine, 32, 4 Sherwood Drive, No. 19, Sulphur — two counts of attempt and conspiracy. Bond: $650,000.
• Theodore Randall Corner, 57, 1214 McCormick St., Vinton — two counts of attempt and conspiracy, drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond: $600,500.
• Jarrid James Hargrave, 33, 825 East First St., No. 25, Crowley — attempt and conspiracy. Bond: $300,000.
• Rodney Paul Viator, 48, New Iberia — attempt and conspiracy. Bond: $250,000.
• Lazaro Perez Cribeiro, 50, 1217 North St., Vinton — seven counts of drug possession with intent to distribute. Bond: $2.8 million.
• Phillis Marie Shelton, 53, 3505 Quibodeaux Road, Sulphur — two counts of drug possession with intent to distribute, drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, first-offense marijuana possession, illegal possession of a weapon during commission of a crime or in presence of drugs. Bond: $701,000.
• Brian Keith Hebert, 51, 331 Texas Eastern Road, Ragley — drug possession with intent to distribute, two counts of drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond: $610,000.
• John Ellis Dunn, 47, 111 S. Charlois Drive, Ragley — drug possession with intent to distribute, drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond: $600,000.
• Samuel Marx Ackel, 54, 648 Phillips St., Sulphur — three counts of running a clandestine lab, four counts of drug possession with intent to distribute, two counts of drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond: $450,000.
• Jenee Lynn Hargrave, 27, 116 Bergeron Lane, Carencro — three counts of drug possession, introducing contraband into a penal institution, possession of drug paraphernalia. Bond: $67,500.
• Latonya Denise Levias, 24, 296 Holly St., Vinton — drug possession with intent to distribute. Bond: $15,000.
• Roderick Keith Hawkins, 36, 702 East St., Vinton — drug possession with intent to distribute. Bond: $10,000.
• Luke Elridge Hanks, 38, 648 Phillips St., Sulphur — two counts of drug possession with intent to distribute. Bond: $6,000.
• Billy Washington Hyatt, 43, 128 Kansas St., Singer.
• Mario Barrazacorral, unknown, unknown.
Posted By: Linda Simpson On: 7/12/2013
Title: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 19TH
last night the article show 19 arrest
Posted By: We the People are Confused On: 7/12/2013
Title: Oh the Irony!
We the people, that are paying attention, find it very ironic that our American law enforcement is towing the line for the federal government by imprisoning US citizens for crimes perpetuated by the government itself. When will our US law enforcement go after the real criminals in Washington who have been caught doing everything from arming the Mexican drug cartels with US guns, laundering billions of dollars in foreign drug proceeds through US banks and smuggling the very drugs that are outlawed onto our US streets hence sending our US law enforcement out to detain offenders in their prisons for even greater profits?
When will the real US law enforcement step up and go after the big guns in Washington? No guts no glory in the end. Did prohibition against alcohol work? No, it did not and the prohibition against drugs is not working either. All this prohibition does is create more crime and fill up our prison system with non violent offenders while giving the South American drug trade a very large lead up. Don't forget our US troops defending the poppy fields in the Middle East. Who among these offenders, as they are called, did anything other than break a chemical law perpetuated by a treasonous government? Who among these offenders, as they are called, committed a violent and actual crime? Do the hound dogs of the War against Drugs really think they can stop drug use among addicts that are actual medical patients gone untreated? How many among you law enforcement have studied the era of alcohol prohibition? I wager not many or you would recognize that it does nothing but make crime and violence more prominent in its wake.
Perhaps you should all check out LEAP, Law Enforcement against Prohibition. It is understood that if drugs were legalized there would still be black market trades for cheaper prices and that the government would tax the people to no end as usual. However, at least our US law enforcement would then be working above the table instead of below, drug violence would go down and thousands of untold souls would not sit in prisons for non violent crimes that are concocted to keep the money rolling through the pockets of the real criminals in Washington.