Traffic stop leads to historic drug bust for sheriff

Missing license plate leads to arrest of two men for possession $1.5 million in meth, marijuana, cocaine and fentanyl

The Sun-Gazette

TULARE COUNTY – A car driving without a license plate led to the largest drug bust in Tulare County Sheriff’s Department’s history totaling more than $1.5 million.

Just after 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 5, a Tulare County Sheriff’s deputy made a traffic stop in the 800 block of South Ash in Pixley for the lack of the license plate. The driver of the car pulled into the driveway of a nearby home at 817 S. Ash St.

The driver, 20-year-old Eduardo Garcia of McFarland, and his passenger, 24-year-old Saul Ontiveros of Pixley, got out of the car quickly and tried to go inside the home, but the deputy stopped them and instructed them to wait outside until a second deputy arrived. According to a released statement, after one of the deputies conducted a field sobriety test and determined Garcia was impaired, they then called the California Highway Patrol to do a more thorough investigation into his driving under the influence of a substance. The CHP officer conducted a field sobriety test and determined that Garcia was, in fact, impaired.

The deputy and CHP officer then observed meth and equipment used to make meth. Detectives with the TCSO Narcotics Unit were called to the scene and a search of the car revealed more than 50 pounds of meth inside. The large amount of narcotics and equipment helped detectives obtain a warrant to search the home Garcia and Ontiveros pulled up to. During a search of the home detectives found two working meth labs with about 113 pounds of crystal meth, 180 pounds of liquid meth, marijuana, about 300 fentanyl pills, ammunition and two guns.

Evidence inside the home led detectives to a second home in the 15000 block of Road 223 in Porterville. A search of that home revealed more marijuana, ammunition, another 4 pounds of crystal meth and the same meth lab equipment being used at the house in Pixley. While there, detectives discovered a second home on the property that was vacant but also serving as a working meth lab. Detectives found 96 pounds of meth and more than 70 gallons of liquid meth inside and outside the vacant house.

In total, detectives confiscated 175 pounds of crystal meth, 480 pounds of liquid meth, 5 pounds of marijuana, 1 gram of cocaine and 300 fentanyl pills. The total value of all the drugs recovered is $1,580,660.

Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward joined U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott at Jan. 24 press conference to announce that a federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Ontiveros and Garcia. They are charged with conspiring to distribute more than 160 pounds of methamphetamine and approximately 300 fentanyl pills. If convicted, Ontiveros and Garcia face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $10 million fine.

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