Comments Off on San Jose family in biggest meth bust in U.S. history held over for trial

Six family members — including a grandpa and grandma — and a friend of theirs have been ordered to stand trial on charges they secretly ran a huge drug distribution center for a Mexican cartel out of the attic of a manicured San Jose apartment complex.

The setup was discovered in March by two Palo Alto police officers who stumbled on it in the course of tracing a stolen iPad via GPS to a well-kept apartment complex in South San Jose called The Woods, on Snell Avenue.

It turned out that the attic of Unit 101 contained $33 million worth of powder and liquid methamphetamine crammed into duffel bags, boxes and thermoses. The discovery gave Santa Clara County bragging rights for the biggest seizure of the drug in U.S. history — 748 pounds.

Prosecutors have sealed documents in the case because the investigation is ongoing. But new details surfaced publicly as Judge Phil Pennypacker decided this week there was enough evidence to hold the seven defendants over for trial.

Two children who lived in the apartment with their parents are now staying with relatives, according to one of the defense attorneys. The rest of the family didn’t live in the apartment.

The defendants are grandparents Juan Lopez Sr., 44, and Martha Lopez, 43; their two sons, Juan Lopez Jr., 22, and Gilberto Angel LopezMendoza, 19; their daughter and her husband Liliana Lopez, 25, and Alberto Rodriguez, 29; and a family friend, Carlos Aguilar, 26.

All are being held in jail in lieu of $2 million bail apiece. The charges include conspiracy to transport a controlled substance, manufacturing the drugs, possession for sale of the drugs and child endangerment. They also face enhancements for alleged gang activity and the large quantity of drugs.

¬†Prosecutor Patrick Vanier said the family ran a distribution hub on behalf of the Los Caballeros Templarios drug trafficking organization, which operates out of Michoacan, Mexico. According to court documents, some of the family members are from Apatzingan, Mexico, the cartel’s home base.

Vanier said the family gave the Palo Alto officers permission to search for the iPad, perhaps believing they wouldn’t find the dope.

The entrance to the attic was not obvious; it could only be reached through a small door in the back of the children’s closet that wasn’t easily visible. However, the cops had talked to the property manager beforehand about the layout of the place because they thought the iPad could be hidden somewhere.

“It was some excellent police work,” Vanier said. “Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have found it.”

But defense attorney Jaime Leanos, who represents five of the defendants, disputed that the search was entirely consensual, saying “it wouldn’t even make sense” for them to agree to it.

Vanier said the cartels instruct the people who work for them to appear cooperative with the police.

“It’s kind of a perfect cover — nice apartment complex, very middle-class, very well-kept,” he said. “The organizations now look to people like this who will blend in well.”

 

 

 

 

http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_21287511/san-jose-family-biggest-meth-bust-u-s

 

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