MLive.com on April 10, 2012 released the following:
“By John Agar
GRAND RAPIDS — The number of suspects charged in the October seizure of 12,000 pounds of marijuana has grown to nine with a recent arrest.
Four people were charged in the original bust, but federal prosecutors have obtained indictments against five others after a police raid at a warehouse in the 3700-block of Linden Avenue SE, near Eastern Avenue SE and 36th Street in Wyoming.
Recent court filings provide a look at the investigation as it unfolded in Wyoming.
The marijuana, brought here by a semi-truck, was packaged for sale to distributors.
A second superseding indictment names nine suspects: Adrian Nunez-Gonzalez, Alex Parra, Anthony Castro Gonzales, Tony Frank Disla-Santiago, Flavio Ramos, Angel Luis De Leon-Dejesus, a.k.a. Jose Saul Alamos-Gallarzo, Angel Eduardo Santos-Rodriguez, a.k.a. Changa, Patrick O’Meara Jr., and Samuel Granillo-Herrera.
The indictment says that the defendants, from 2009 through Oct. 21, 2011, conspired to possess and distribute 1,000 pounds or more of marijuana. The indictment asks that the defendants forfeit $50 million as proceeds of drug trafficking, court records showed.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says most big busts here are measured in hundreds of pounds.
The marijuana seized here had a wholesale value of $7 million, with a street value of $12 million.
Police immediately arrested Castro Gonzales, Disla-Santiago, Ramos DeLeon-DeJesus, while others were charged as the investigation continued.
Attorneys for two of the defendants filed a request that evidence be suppressed based on an alleged illegal search of a trailer that contained marijuana. U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney determined the search was proper.
In a 19-page opinion, he outlined the investigation that began with information that a large shipment of marijuana was en route to Wyoming.
A DEA special agent in Indianapolis relayed information to investigators here that a semi-truck was headed to a specific location in Wyoming likely loaded with a large amount of marijuana.
The DEA, along with the Metropolitan Enforcement Team, Kent County Narcotics Enforcement Team, Grand Rapids police’s Vice Unit and Wyoming police, began conducting surveillance at the warehouse around 7:15 a.m. on Oct. 20.
Just before 8 a.m., the semi-truck showed up at Linden Avenue. Three men in a black Dodge pickup across the street walked over and talked to the driver of the semi, who got back in the truck and maneuvered the trailer to the loading dock across the street.
DEA special agent Scott Syme could not see what occurred, but saw the trailer shift, suggesting that it was being emptied.
The semi left an hour later. Police soon stopped it.
The driver, who voluntarily opened the empty trailer for police, told investigators he only used the restroom at the warehouse. The men who met him had to get keys, and escorted him through the warehouse until a bathroom could finally be found.
He told police he had no idea what was unloaded.
Meanwhile, a white work van showed up at 8:15 a.m. at Linden Avenue, coming and going throughout the morning and afternoon. A silver Dodge Ram pickup showed up minutes later. One of the men got into the silver pickup. Police followed it to a residence in Kentwood before it returned to the warehouse hauling a trailer.
It went inside the warehouse. A red Chevrolet pickup truck also showed up.
Surveillance teams followed the black truck to the interchange of I-196 and I-94 in Berrien County, where police stopped the truck for a traffic violation. Police found no marijuana.
Late that afternoon, a gray minivan showed up at Linden Avenue. At 8:10 p.m., it left for a trip to McDonald’s.
Just after midnight, the red pickup with trailer, the gray minivan and white van all left the warehouse. Police said the storage trailer was obviously weighted down. Police followed the three vehicles through Kentwood, hoping to determine the destination and chain of distribution of the marijuana.
Then, the three vehicles turned down a dead-end street, turned around without stopping and continued south on Kalamazoo Avenue. It’s a counter-surveillance move, and told police that they had been discovered.
Police pulled all three vehicles over based on probable cause the vehicles contained drugs. Police found 8,316 pounds in the trailer.
“Here, law enforcement officers had probable cause to seize and arrest defendants for a felony when they were pulled over,” Maloney wrote in his opinion upholding evidence gathered in the search.
“Defendants’ attempts to characterize the seizure solely as a traffic stop is not persuasive,” the judge wrote. “The officers had probable cause to believe that the drivers of the three vehicles were committing a felony by transporting a large quantity of marijuana.
“Based on the accuracy of the information received from a fellow federal agent (in Indianapolis), observations at the warehouse, and the manner in which the three vehicles drove away from the warehouse, the officers could reasonably believe that the rest of the information, specifically that marijuana was contained in the shipment, was also accurate.”
The judge also determined that one of the defendants gave consent to the search of the trailer, which did not have a registration plate.”
Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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