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Contraband
07/25/2008

3 charged in ICE probe that nets large stash of methamphetamine

Street value of drugs found at Orange County apartment estimated at $1m

SANTA ANA, Calif. - Three men were indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday, on narcotics charges, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that resulted in the recovery of approximately 8.6 kilograms of methamphetamine at a Garden Grove apartment.

Armando Cerpas Gutierrez, 27, and Eladio Bucio Fajardo, 29, both of Guaracha-Michoacan, Mexico, and Jose Luis Escamilla, 48, of National City, California, are charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a violation that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. The case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the Central District of California.

The three defendants were arrested by ICE agents July 8, following the execution of a controlled delivery of the 8.6 kilograms of methamphetamine from the Otay Mesa Port of Entry to the Garden Grove apartment where Escamilla resided. Court documents reveal that the defendants conspired to transport the methamphetamine from Mexico to Gutierrez's residence in Garden Grove, where they unloaded it and repackaged it for sale.

Following the execution of a search warrant for the Gutierrez's apartment, garage and vehicles, agents seized the methamphetamine, $135,000 in cash, eleven cell phones, and a vehicle.

"Methamphetamine is a vicious drug that destroys lives," said Robert Schoch, ICE special agent in charge in Los Angeles. "ICE is committed to preventing this highly dangerous drug from reaching the streets of our communities."

The seized methamphetamine has been turned over to the DEA for further analysis and testing. Authorities estimate the methamphetamine would have sold for as much as $ million on the streets.

The three defendants will be arraigned on July 28, 2008, at which time, trial dates will be scheduled.