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Drug smuggler’s money goes to agencies

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Four law agencies in California and Nevada are probably happy that Ciro Mancuso used drug money to purchase property in Hawaii.

Mancuso, who lived in Olympic Village as a contractor, was arrested in 1989 for being involved in a trafficking ring that smuggled about 40 tons of marijuana from Thailand, Morocco and Mexico into the United States. The federal government seized his property in Hawaii, sold it, and will distribute the roughly $800,000 evenly to the four law enforcement agencies that investigated Mancuso for three years, starting in 1985, said El Dorado County sheriff’s Lt. Les Lovell.

Sheriff’s departments in both Douglas and El Dorado counties, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department and Nevada Division of Investigation will share the asset forfeiture money.



“This is the biggest amount we’ve gotten from the Mancuso case,” said Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini. “Without asset money our efforts in narcotics enforcement would not be possible.”

The money is restricted, meaning it must be used for a specific purpose. The agencies will use the Mancuso money for drug enforcement and education.



“It’s kind of a surprise,” said SLTPD Commander Don Murren. “The case is like 14 or 15 years old. Any money we get that we can use to fight drug activity is welcome.”

The investigation into the “Mancuso Organization” began in 1977 and a joint federal and local agency probe started in 1985. Authorities were seeking to seize about 30 properties in California, Nevada, Colorado and Hawaii worth nearly $20 million that was invested with drug money.

The marijuana bust was the largest ever in law enforcement efforts on the West Coast and followed “Operation Deep Snow,” where South Lake Tahoe Mayor Terry Trupp was arrested on cocaine charges.

When Mancusco was arrested, he was sent to the same jail in Sacramento that housed Trupp.

Mancuso, in a move that avoided his stay in federal prison for 60 years, aided law enforcement’s efforts to crumble the smuggling ring, Pierini said. Instead, the contractor served nearly 10 years in prison.

Including the $800,000, Pierini guessed the total amount of asset forfeiture money received by the four agencies is “well over a million.” He added he expects this amount to be among the last from the case.

Pierini said the money will help fund TRINET and SLEDNET. The drug enforcement team TRINET covers drug activity in Douglas County, Lyon County and Carson City. SLEDNET is an enforcement team that busts illegal drug activity at South Shore.

The law enforcement agencies have an asset forfeiture account. The money will most likely fund vehicles, salaries, utility costs, weapons and other expenses used for the fight against drugs.

— Contact William Ferchland at (530) 542-8014 or wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com


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