Authorities bust alleged heroin-smuggling ring
SANTA ANA – Authorities said Thursday that they arrested 23 people and seized 3.3 pounds of heroin after an investigation into what officials called a smuggling ring bringing drugs into California from Mexico.
Investigators believe the organization smuggled in brown heroin, stored it at locations throughout Orange County, and distributed it across the state, according to a joint statement from federal immigration officials and the Santa Ana police.
Police identified Francisco Javier Valencia-Contreras, the owner of Rollin Auto Collision in Santa Ana, as the alleged ringleader. He and the 22 others arrested all were charged with conspiracy to possess heroin for distribution and sale.
It could not immediately be determined whether Valencia-Contreras, 29, had retained an attorney. A woman who answered the phone at his business said he was not available for comment.
Police also seized $25,000 in cash and several weapons, including a shotgun, during raids at the auto center and at 10 homes in Santa Ana and Garden Grove, authorities said.
Four other people were taken into custody on immigration violations during the raids.