How the Feds Busted a Zetas-Connected Cocaine Ring Supplying Dallas with 100 Kilos per Month

Categories: Crime

CocaineBundles_DEA.jpg
DEA
The feds were quite pleased in 2010 when Operation Greedy Grove, their months-long takedown of a Pleasant Grove-based crack ring, resulted in 28 arrests and the seizure of several kilograms of cocaine, more than a dozen guns, and $210,000 cash. But the guys they picked up -- "Rat," "Ron Don," and "G-Bone," among others -- were small-fry gang-bangers, violent but unsophisticated. They may have disrupted one small corner of North Texas' drug market and made life in Pleasant Grove a bit less dangerous, but, in the grand scheme of things, they'd made scarcely a dent.

The most valuable thing to come out of Greedy Grove was information. The man who supplied the Highland Hills Posse, NFL Boyz, and other targeted street gangs with cocaine agreed to cooperate with DEA and FBI agents as they looked for targets higher up the supply chain. And so, on January 19, 2011, he led them to the parking lot of a Spring Creek BBQ.

There, as cars whizzed past on Wheatland Road, he met with a man named Arturo "Flaco" Picaso, 32, and agreed to buy a kilogram of cocaine for $23,800. They didn't make the deal until a month later, when they met again in the parking lot of an apartment complex in far southwest Dallas. Federal agents were watching as Picaso rolled up in a gold Mercedes, his girlfriend and infant child in the car with him, and handed off a package of coke and complimentary razor blade.

This was enough to get a wiretap on Picaso's phone, which led them up another rung to 52-year-old Ricardo Morales Sr. Picaso called Morales to resupply after his recent sale, but Morales said he wanted to take it slow so he could be sure not to fall behind on payments.

"Well, they took those that didn't pay them over there. Do you understand?" he said. "But, ah, I don't want to get too involved with them because they are assholes, and if something happens, and then they could come and those assholes could do something to me, you understand?"

In another conversation, Morales explained that "those damn men, fucking Zetas," had locked down highways in a region of Mexico and were stopping and searching every car that passed through, delaying Dallas-bound drug shipments.

It's not clear from court documents if or when Picaso got more cocaine, since a subsequent wiretap of Morales' phone shifted agents' attention yet another rung up the ladder to his supplier, Rosendo "Borardo" Chappa.

On July 8, Chappa sent a courier to Morales' house to pick up $22,300 he was owed. Federal agents watched the whole thing and, as the man was leaving, alerted Dallas police. Officers then found some reason to make a traffic stop and arrested him on outstanding warrants. Inside the car, they found the cash and 17.7 grams of cocaine hidden behind the passenger-side airbag. The courier agreed to cooperate.

His first major tip came two weeks later when, on July 23, he told agents that Chappa was going to buy 20 kilograms of coke from Omar "Pilas" Acosta. The agents were too late to catch the sale, but they made sure to be there early the next day when Chappa met Acosta in a Burger King parking lot and handed over $88,000 while agents took pictures from afar.

Acosta, in turn, led them to Alonzo de la Rosa Jordan, a.k.a. "Gordo," who drove a white Ford F-150, the bed of which was often laden with carpet drums filled with 100 or more kilograms of cocaine that he would distribute to Acosta and Chappa.

The feds finally began closing in on August 19. They staked out the parking lot by Nordstrom at the Galleria, where Chappa handed Acosta a package full of money. They had Dallas police pull him over as he left for changing lanes without signaling. He didn't have his license but offered to fetch it from his apartment nearby. Officers accepted his invitation to come inside, then placed him under arrest for outstanding warrants.

Acosta was happy to let officers search his truck but became upset when they asked to inspect the other apartment unit for which he had a key. But they didn't need his permission, just the trained nose of Jan, their police canine, who went wild at the scent of six kilograms of cocaine hidden in the apartment in question. Officers also seized more than $200,000 in cash.

News of Acosta's arrest set off something of a panic among the others, who feared he might cooperate with the feds. Jordan called Chappa and asked to store 26 kilograms of cocaine at his place. Problem was, the feds had gotten a wiretap and were listening in. It wasn't hard from there to find the tightly packed bundles tucked in a hidden compartment behind the stove.

Federal investigators have since linked the cocaine ring to Los Zetas cartel. They say it was importing upwards of 100 kilograms of cocaine per month in exchange for large vacuum-sealed bags of cash.

All 10 men arrested in the conspiracy have been convicted. Acosta, the final participant to be nailed, was sentenced last week to 84 months in federal prison


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28 comments
juanmayeaux
juanmayeaux

What I find weird about the good ole' USA, is that we always are giving  the reason for allowing women to get an abortion, is that it is a women's right to choose what to do with her body. Using that logic, why is it against the law for someone to choose to do coke, pot or any other drug? It is our body, we don't have the right to choose?

TexMarine
TexMarine

The Zetas may need a federal bailout after this. Poor monsters.

Obummer
Obummer

Yo who iz gonna pick up all da unlicensed pharmacist in Dallas?

petenelson277
petenelson277

Legalize it. The same arguments were heard about betting on horses. Ruin lives, families will starve etc etc etc

The war on drugs is a joke and failure.

Jesse Pittman
Jesse Pittman

So they finally cracked down on Hamsterdam. Again.

Mark Edington
Mark Edington

damn, now where will people find the coke? :-p

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

Decriminalize it, along with marijuana, and put Los Zetas -- and the other cartels -- out of business. Adults should have the ability to decide for themselves whether they want to ruin their bodies and minds with narcotics, without the threat of criminal consequences. Right-wingers talk about a "nanny state." Well, I agree in this particular case.

Johnny Bananas
Johnny Bananas

@Mark Edington every other street corner, bar, nightclub etc. etc

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

@CogitoErgoSum Of course, there is no other risk involved. It's all just their body they are ruining. Until they get behind a wheel. Or run out of money to fund their addiction. Or a plethora of other consequences and costs involved. Short-sighted much?

mcdallas
mcdallas

@CogitoErgoSum So, too follow your logic... we decriminalize it, which will put Los Zetas out of business.  Can I ask who will be making and transporting the drugs when they are "decriminalized"?  The Salvation Army, perhaps?  

The only thing that "decriminalizing" will do is put less street-level dealers and purchasers in jail, which may or may not be a good thing. 

But I find it hard to believe that decriminalization alone will put the cartels out of business.

Maybe I'm missing something.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@ChangingF8 @CogitoErgoSum You cannot create public safety through legislative fiat.  It is not the government's job to provide us with a whiffle ball life, no matter how hard it seems to try.  Prohibition, drinking age (an arbitrary fallacy), speed limits and other onerous intrusions on personal liberty have done little to protect the public from the dangers of vehicular travel, alcohol effects, instantaneous deceleration, and a host of other ills that befall our fellow countrymen everyday.  Why is the recreational drug market any different than any other consumer market?  Isn't the Republican mantra to 'let the markets decide'?  That's why we're getting screwed with the highest electric rates in the nation, right?  legalize drugs and let the market decide the outcome.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@ChangingF8 @CogitoErgoSum 

That's a really poor argument - anyone behind the wheel is a potential danger. I'd sooner put my life in the hands of an experienced drunk-driver than a stone-sober teenager with a cell phone and a case of existential teen-angst.

As to the addiction part, there is no reason to believe that addiction rates for any of these substances would rise. These drugs are all readily available to the folks that want them, albeit with a good amount of risk and expense attached to procuring them. The people that would like to use these drugs are already using them.

Take away the risk and expense and you'll also take a way a large part of the financial incentive to commit crime to support an expensive habit and we'll likely see falling rates across the board for petty crimes. Not to mention taking away a lucrative product from foreign cartels and domestic dealers, so that crime rate drops as well.

SilentP
SilentP

@mcdallas @CogitoErgoSum Decriminalization will change the cartel's business model, not put them out of business.  But what would happen as a result is less violence.


Carltonfunkbass
Carltonfunkbass

The profit margin simply isn't there for prescription (legal) drugs. Individuals sell them, but there just isn't enough money to be made, or significant continuous supply, with the drugs already at retail price.

Heroin, cocaine and meth can be purchased and produced by the ton, basically wholesale, allowing many people to make significant profits, right down the line, from production to end user. With drugs you can purchase at Rite Aid or Wallgreen's, the profit stays with the person holding the prescription, or at most one other person.

Prohibition is what creates a significant profit margin, and thereby, illegal cartels. Nobody's selling Vicodin and Cocaine Hydrochloride on the streets for 10x profit. Nobody except the drug companies, the legal cartels. One group wears gang colors, the other wears suits.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@mcdallas @CogitoErgoSum 

You don't think a company such as, say, Pfizer or Glaxo SmithKline wouldn't enjoy the opportunity to market recreational drugs such as cocaine?

I would be surprised if they didn't already have a contingency plan for this just in case public opinion starts swaying that direction, which - it is. 

WylieH
WylieH

@mcdallas @CogitoErgoSum I suspect that decriminalization of marijuana would largely follow the same path as decriminalization of alcohol did.  Alcohol and tobacco companies would seem to be the likely candidates to step in to replace the drug cartels. 

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@ChangingF8@RTGolden1@CogitoErgoSumYou should read something other than alarmist news.  what is actually happening in Portugal is that the number of adults who have tried drugs has risen slightly while the numbers of teens trying drugs had decreased slightly.  The true drug craze in Portugal came in the 70's after the fall of the military dictatorship, when drugs were still criminalized.  Drug possession and use is still illegal in Portugal, only it's be decriminalized.  Mere possession and use nets one a fine and having to meet with some bureaucrat somewhere, like a parking citation.  Think about that for a second.  Instead of popping a teenager making a bad decision (which teens are prone to do) with a lifelong criminal record and thus fixing them on the path to even more drug use and limited choices, Portugal gives them a fine and some educational opportunities.  Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars prosecuting and incarcerating someone for using recreational drugs, Portugal makes a gain in the way of a fine (all funds from fines are poured into rehab programs I understand).  Crime has not seen a drastic increase (at least not one that cannot be correlated to other factors, i.e. austerity measures and the Euro crisis), HIV infections are down.  The key observation by Portuguese, Euro and UN observers is that "they haven't made the situation worse".

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/evaluating-drug-decriminalization-in-portugal-12-years-later-a-891060-2.html

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

@RTGolden1 @ChangingF8 @CogitoErgoSum Oh but the situation would get worse, much worse. It is proven to be true over time in Portugal, where addiction is on the rise, and you do not want to be caught driving on the streets where they don't really enforce traffic laws anyway. And this is in a poor country where ownership of a vehicle is not as widespread as it is in the US. Alcohol is a drug and should be better regulated at the least.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@ChangingF8 @TheCredibleHulk @CogitoErgoSum 

That's rich, you come in here, empty handed with all kinds of claims about Portugal and want me to produce facts? How about some cites for your claims?

Anyway, that's kind of off point. America is not Portugal, and even if there was a slight rise in addiction and petty crime for a time, would that not be mitigated by the huge drop in violent crime associated with the cartel model? Also, in addition to that, much of the money now being dedicated to policing and incarcerating low level offenders could be redirected into rehab and awareness programs that would likely be far more effective at lowering rates of addiction. In my opinion, in the face of 50 years of failed drug policy in the U.S. that's a gamble I'm ready for our society  to take.

Also: Freedom for those that you deem worthy of the privilege? I think you need a refresher course on the constitution, my friend.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@ChangingF8@TheCredibleHulk@CogitoErgoSum " but people ultimately can not handle the freedom "  This statement is appalling, utterly appalling.  Maybe YOU cannot handle freedom.  I can, and will fight tooth and nail to preserve individual freedom and sovereignty.

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

@TheCredibleHulk @ChangingF8 @CogitoErgoSum Portugal is a great test case. Hard drug use is on the rise. Crime has not fallen, it is gradually rising. The only change is that HIV cases have fallen. Initially they saw success, but people ultimately can not handle the freedom. So it is no surprise that it is failing. The Cartels will just give up selling drugs? Or will their business suddenly be legitimized? That might hurt them initially, but they will prosper under the decriminalization of drugs. And as far as people knowing where to get them, I have no idea where I would go to get drugs. Maybe some guy sitting in the corner of a dive bar? Anyway, if it was on the shelf at Wal Mart I would know exactly where to get it. Most people are better off not knowing. So got any facts or more pie in the sky dreams about how it would be?

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