By Carolyn Barbre
A gaggle of school children stood on the corner of Honolulu Street and Mirage Avenue at about 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 7 watching a small sheriff's chopper circle and circle overhead slightly to the north.
At the same time about 120 officers from 15 different local, state and federal agencies simultaneously hit six Lindsay locations a few blocks away with search warrants.
This included three residences in the 600 block of North Gale Hill Avenue, with two state and one federal search warrant, one in the 700 block of Monte Vista Street with a state search warrant, one in the 700 block of North Orange Avenue and one in the 10000 block of East Honolulu Street, both with federal search warrants.
Picked up on federal charges of possession of methamphetamine for distribution and sales, and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine were Guillermo Cabrera, 33, Jose Luis Cabrera, 32, Socorro Lupio Negrete, 23, and Sonia Negrete, also 23. State warrants were used in the arrest of Melville Bradsteen, 46, for possession of methamphetamine, and Gloria Negrete, 61, for possession of Methamphetamine, possession for sales, possession of cocaine, and possession of a loaded firearm in the commission of a felony.
Tulare County Sheriff's Capt. Robert Lomeli said about $100,000 worth of drugs at wholesale prices were seized including an estimated five pounds of crystal meth called ice, one kilo or 2.2 pounds of cocaine and five pounds of marijuana plus a few ounces of methamphetamine.
"I would classify it as a significant bust," Lomeli said without making comparisons to other drug busts in the South Valley. But he said the fact that the raid was in Lindsay was not significant. "I don't think Lindsay is any different than any other town. We just happened to catch it at the right time. There is not in any way, shape or form, a [drug] plague in Lindsay. It's everywhere." Lomeli said the majority of the drugs in this bust were found in one location.
As to why so many law enforcement personnel were used, Lomeli said, "What happens is we are dealing with multiple locations that need to be hit simultaneously, so we have to ask for resources from other agencies." He said five SWAT teams participated and SWAT teams operate as a unit of 10-15 officers.
Lt. Ron Castaneda with the Tulare County Narcotics Division said, "Also, when dealing with narcotics, I'd be willing to say more than 90 percent of the time the subjects are armed. It's also an officer safety issue." Firearms were siezed in this raid.
Prior to the raid members of the Tulare County Sheriff's Narcotic Division, agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and members of the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE) conducted a two month undercover investigation in the Lindsay area during which two suspects were identified who were known to be large scale methamphetamine distributors. During the investigation undercover officers negotiated and purchased multiple pounds of methamphetamine from the suspects, which resulted in the search warrants being issued.
Involved in the actual raid were the following law enforcement agencies: The Tulare County Sheriff's Inter-agency Narcotics Enforcement Team (INET), the Sheriff's Narcotics Task Force, Sheriff's Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Unit (CLEU), Sheriff's SWAT/STEP Unit, Gang Unit, Ag Unit, DEA, BNE, Alcohol, Tobacco & Alcohol (ATF), Lindsay and Farmersville police departments, Kern County Sheriff's Department, plus SWAT teams from Tulare, Visalia and Porterville police departments and Tri County HIDTA.
"If we continue having this type of success the War on Drugs is going great," Capt. Lomeli said. He said, "Money and greed are the biggest reasons people choose to deal in drugs. This is such an abundant country, with so much to offer . . ." He said having a drug-free society would only occur if parents assumed proper responsibility for their children. "It begins at home," Lomeli said.
The suspects arrested on federal warrants were taken to the Fresno County Jail and booked on federal charges. Suspects arrested on the state charges were booked at the Tulare County Main Jail and Bob Wiley Detention Center.