Santa Fe Springs men jailed in $35 million cocaine bust sentenced to prison

LOS ANGELES >> Two Santa Fe Springs men arrested in a jailed in a 672-pound cocaine bust linked to the Sinaloa drug cartel received prison sentences of more than two decades each last week, authorities said.
Eddie Perez, 43, and Jose Garcia Samano, 41, have been behind bars since June 2, 2015, when a Los Angeles County sheriff’s task force carried out a raid at a home in the 11400 block of Charleseworth Road in Santa Fe Springs, where deputies seized 562 pounds of cocaine.
The bust took place a day after deputies arrested two other men linked to the drug ring after pulling over their car in their hometown of Victorville and discovering 110 pounds of the drug in the trunk of their vehicle, according to officials from sheriff’s Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force, or L.A. IMPACT. The large-scale drug-dealing operation was believed to be linked to the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. Investigators valued the seized cocaine at $35 million.
•Photos: Santa Fe Springs/Victorville cocaine bust
At their sentencing hearing on March 9, Perez received a prison term of 23 years, while Samano was sentenced to 27 years in state prison, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling said.
Perez had pleaded guilty to selling a controlled substance, conspiracy to commit a crime and two counts of possession of a controlled substance, Risling said. Samano pleaded guilty to selling a controlled substance and conspiracy.
The two other defendants in the case, who were arrested during the traffic stop in Victorville, are already serving time for their roles in the cocaine ring.
Eligio Alvarez Manriquez, 27, received a sentence of 22 years in state prison in February after pleading “no contest” to selling a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy, according to Risling. Jose Manuel Lopez, 25, was sentenced to three years, to be served in county jail, in November after pleading guilty to a single charge of conspiracy.
A woman who was initially arrested along with Manriquez and Lopez was ultimately released without charges due to a lack of evidence of her involvement, officials said.

FILE PHOTOS by Melissa Masatani

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Cell phone theft leads police to discover large cache of drugs in La Habra, 5 suspects jailed


LA HABRA >> Police arrested five people and recovered more than 5 ounces of heroin and 15 grams of methamphetamine after a theft victim helped police track down his stolen cell phone late Saturday, authorities said.
Police responded to 600 block of East Ember Lane about 10:35 p.m. in connection with a cell phone theft reported earlier in the evening at a shopping center in the 900 block of North Harbor Boulevard, La Habra police Lt. Adam Foster said.
“After the initial theft report, the victim was able to track the phone and this resulted in a continuation of the investigation,” police said in a written statement. The victim notified police of the stolen phone’s location.
But once police arrived at the home where the cell phone had been tracked to, the investigation grew into more than a case of a stolen cell phone.
“One-hundred and fifty grams of heroin and 15 grams of methamphetamine were confiscated as evidence,” the statement said.
“After the investigation, five people were arrested for various charges, including: possession of controlled substances, possession of narcotics for sales, possession of a prohibited weapon, possession of methamphetamine for sales, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia, grand theft, conspiracy to commit crime, and possession of methamphetamine.”
One of those arrested also had a pre-existing warrant, police said.
The identities of the five men and women arrested were not available Sunday as the investigation continued, Foster said.
Anyone with information can reach La Habra police at 562-383-4300. Tips may also be submitted to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-847-6227.

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Police find man living in makeshift apartment on roof of La Habra auto parts store


LA HABRA >> Police arrested a man for drug possession after finding him living in an elaborate makeshift shelter set up on top of a La Habra auto parts store late Saturday.
Employees of O’Reilly Auto Parts, along Whittier Boulevard just east of Hacienda Road, called police shortly after 10 p.m. to report hearing footsteps on the roof of the building, La Habra police Sgt. Rob Diehl said.
Officers climbed up onto the roof and discovered the source of the noise.
A man had set up a small but well-furnished living space under the eaves overhanging the roof, police said. It included a queen-size bed and a toilet fashioned from a bucket and a toilet seat.
While it was unknown how long the man had been residing on top of the auto parts store, “He must have been up there quite a while,” Diehl said.
Police also discovered the man was in possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia, he said.
Martin Rowe, 45, was arrested on suspicion of possessing the contraband before being released with a citation, Diehl said.

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Police seize 3,300 marijuana plants, meth, gun from El Monte warehouse; Walnut man jailed

EL MONTE >> Police jailed a convicted felon from Walnut early Friday after recovering 3,300 marijuana plants, 308 pounds of finished pot, an ounce of methamphetamine and a loaded gun from a warehouse in El Monte, authorities said.
Brian Lee Skipper, 46, was arrested during the 7 a.m. raid at a commercial building at 2645 Merced Ave., according to El Monte police Sgt. Richard Luna. Investigators showed up with a search warrant, seeking an illicit marijuana-growing operation.
“Upon entry, police personnel located (Skipper) and numerous pieces of equipment and devices used for the cultivation of marijuana and concentrated cannabis,” Luna said in a written statement, “In addition, detectives located methamphetamine, a loaded firearm and surveillance and security equipment.”
Police also found “numerous types of hazardous chemicals” used in the production of concentrated cannabis, also known as “wax” or “honey oil.”
“As a result, the location was vacated and additional investigators from the L.A. Impact Narcotics Team and Los Angeles County Hazardous Materials responded,” Luna said. “An additional investigation was completed as well as a cleanup which rendered the property safe.”
Police also allege the grow operation was wired to bypass the electric meter and steal power from the grid.
Skipper was booked on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sales, operating a chemical drug lab, possession of methamphetamine for sale, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and theft of utility services.
The seized marijuana and methamphetamine carry an estimated street value of $750,000, Luna said.
Skipper, a convicted felon who was on active probation, was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Skipper just pleaded guilty in January of Possession of methamphetamine for sale and theft of utlities in a case first filed in 2014, according to San Bernardino Superior Court records. He also admitted a prior drug offense. Additional charges of cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sales were dismissed.
He was also convicted in San Bernardino County of domestic abuse in June of 2006, and of making criminal threats in 2001, records show.
In Los Angeles County, Skipper’s criminal history stretches from 1989 to 2011 and includes convictions for drug possession, assault and battery, an illegal weapon violation and driving on a suspended or revoked license.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact El Monte police at 626-580-2100, or by email at tips@empd.org.

PHOTO of Brian Lee Skipper, 46, of Walnut courtesy of the El Monte Police Department

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Probation compliance check in Rosemead turns up 2,000 pills, 4 guns; brothers jailed

ROSEMEAD >> What began as a probation compliance check in Rosemead on Tuesday led deputies to discover a cache of 2,000 pills and four guns, including two AR-15 rifles, authorities said. Two brothers who live at the home were jailed.
Khamsana Jimmy Phimmasone, 35, who is already on probation for a previous narcotics conviction, was booked on suspicion of being a convicted felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials and booking records.
His brother, 34-year-old Donny Phimmasone, was booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sales.
Deputies visited the home in the 3700 block of Strang Avenue to ensure Khamsana Phimmasone was abiding by the terms of his probation, Sgt. Tony Duong of the sheriff’s Temple City Station said. His younger brother also lives at the home.
“The search resulted in the discovery of narcotics and several firearms including, two AR-15 rifles, a shotgun, a handgun, ammunition and approximately 2000 pills of a controlled substance,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
Several varieties of pills were found, Duong said. They were sent to the sheriff’s crime lab for analysis to determine what exactly they contain.
Khamsana was immediately sentenced to a 10-day “flash incarceration” following his arrest on Tuesday, which is generally used for felons being supervised under the terms of AB 109 probation. Police officials could not confirm whether he was on AB 109 “post-release community supervision.”
According to Los Angeles County Superior Court records, his past convictions include: possession of restricted or dangerous drugs in 2004; auto theft and recklessly evading police in 2002; as well as possession of methamphetamine, auto theft and burglary in 2001.
According to county booking records, Khamsana Phimmasone was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail, while Donny Phimmasone was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail. Both were scheduled to appear in the El Monte branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Man severely burned in fire at suspected ‘honey oil’ lab in Altadena

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ALTADENA >> A man suffered burns to 40 percent of his body after an explosion and fire at an Altadena home being used to extract concentrated hash oil from marijuana, authorities said.
Deputies were first summoned to the 1800 block of E. Midwick Drive about 4:10 p.m. by reports of a person heard screaming, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
“When they arrived they saw a male adult badly burned and flames coming from the rear of a house,” according to the statement.
After Los Angeles County firefighters extinguished the fire and treated the victim, deputies discovered a large number of “containers and equipment” which they recognized as part of a manufacturing lab used to extract THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, from plants, authorities said. “Several windows of the house were blown out, possibly from an explosion.”
The process to extract concentrated THC oil, also known as “honey oil,” from marijuana plants often involves highly flammable liquids.
A Los Angeles County Fire Department hazardous materials team, sheriff’s narcotics detectives and U.S. Department of Justice officials investigated and decontaminated the scene in a process that lasted through 6 a.m. Saturday morning, officials said.
The badly burned man was taken to a hospital with severe burns covering about 40 percent of his body.
The man, whose name was not available, may face several criminal charges in connection with the alleged honey oil lab.

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PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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Man and woman jailed after chase from Azusa to Duarte


AZUSA >> A man and woman led police on a pursuit that ended with a crash in Duarte before they were arrested late Friday, police said.
Driver Dennis Ayon,, 36, of Azusa was booked on suspicion of evading police and felony drug possession, Azusa police officials said in a written statement. Passenger Darla Abriel, 30, of Glendora was booked on suspicion of a misdemeanor drug offense and outstanding warrants, according to Azusa police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The pursuit began shortly after 8 p.m. after an Azusa police officer tried to stop the car they were riding in for a traffic violation near 5th Street and Dalton Avenue, Azusa police officials said in a written statement.
“The driver failed to stop and led officers on a vehicle pursuit from the City of Azusa through the City of Monrovia and ultimately into the City of Duarte,” according to the statement, “The vehicle lost control and collided with several parked vehicles in the 2000 block of Mountain (Avenue), City of Duarte.”
Both the driver and passenger were treated for apparently minor injuries prior to booking, officials said. Further details regarding he type and amount of drugs allegedly possessed by the suspects was not available.
Information regarding Ayon’s bail amount and initial court appearance was not available Saturday, as he remained hospitalized, officials said. He is already on felony probation under the terms of AB 109, records show.
Abriel was being held in lieu of $45,000 bail pending an arraignment hearing scheduled Monday in the West Covina branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Azusa gang member, woman arrested in Covina with stockpile of drugs

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COVINA >> Police jailed an Azusa gang member late Friday after he ran from a traffic stop with large amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine and concentrated cannabis, as well as other people identifying documents, officials said.
Steven Anthony Quintana, 42, of Azusa, who was already on felony probation for previous robbery conviction under the terms of AB 109, was ultimately booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sales, possession of identity theft-related materials and resisting arrest, according to Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Quintana’s passenger, 37-year-old Darlene Denise Martinez, whose hometown was unclear, was booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sales and possession of identity-theft related materials.
An officer first tried to pull Quintana over for a traffic violation about 6:30 p.m., Covina police Sgt. Antonio Zavala said.
After a delay, Quintana pulled over in the 5300 block of Cedarglen Drive, where he ran from the car, the sergeant said.
A police helicopter which was already overhead directed officers on the ground to Quintana, who was found in the area and arrested without a struggle, Zavala said.
Quintana ditched his jacket while running from police, he said. Inside the jacket, police found 46 grams of methamphetamine, seven grams of cocaine and 32 grams of concentrated cannabis. Inside the car, police also found identifying documents in the names of other people.
Quintana and Martinez were being held in lieu of $50,000 bail each pending their initial court appearances, records show.

BOOKING PHOTOS of Steven Quintana and Darlene Martinez courtesy of the Covina Police Department.

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Glendora man accused of selling heroin near high school in Covina

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COVINA >> Police jailed a Glendora man Sunday on suspicion of selling heroin at an apartment building across the street from a high school in Covina, officials said.
Christopher Michael Strohl, 30, was booked on suspicion of possession of heroin for sales, as well as an existing traffic warrant, following his 9 a.m. arrest at an apartment complex in the 1000 block of West Cypress Street, across the street from Northview High School, according to Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Officers had received complaints of drug dealing in the area when they spotted Strohl, who appeared suspicious, standing in a carport, Covina police Sgt. Antonio Zavala said.
They soon realized the man, later identified as Strohl, had an outstanding traffic warrant, he said.
While searching the suspect, officers discovered 9.8 grams of heroin, as well as a small amount of methamphetamine, the sergeant said.
The heroin had an estimated street value of $1,000, he added.
Strohl was being held in lieu of $65,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the West Covina branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.

PHOTO courtesy of the Covina Police Department

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Robbers target painkillers in Pasadena pharmacy heist


PASADENA >> Police are seeking two men who fled with two duffel bags full of painkillers following a robbery at a Pasadena pharmacy on Wednesday afternoon.
The crime took place about 12:10 p.m. at the Pasadena City Pharmacy, 1648 E. Washington Blvd.
The two robbers gestured as if they had handguns, though none were seen, as they entered the pharmacy and jumped over the counter, Pasadena police Lt. Mark Goodman said.
“They filled two duffel bags that they had brought with them with prescription medication,” he said. The robbers targeted painkillers and did not steal any cash. It was unclear how much medication they obtained.
Both robbers were last seen fleeing the store on foot, he said. No injuries were reported.
Police described both robbers as black men, between 25 and 30 years old, wearing all-dark clothing.
Investigators were in the process of checking area surveillance cameras for useful footage, Goodman said.
Anyone with information can reach Pasadena police at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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