Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Narcotics Team was on Bruno’s trail

Sarah Johnson’s ex-boyfriend allegedly involved in Twin Falls meth sale

Express Staff Writer

Bruno Santos

A police report filed in the Bruno Santos methamphetamine case indicates that the Blaine County Narcotics Enforcement Team was investigating Santos for possible illegal drug activity for several months prior to his arrest earlier this month.

In the report, Santos, the former boyfriend of convicted murderer Sarah Johnson, is accused of being involved in at least one other drug transaction prior to being arrested on May 14 for allegedly selling a half-pound of methamphetamine to an Idaho State Police undercover detective. The report, a probable-cause affidavit filed by Sun Valley police officer Mike Abaid, a member of the county Narcotics Enforcement Team, alleges that Santos helped arrange a sale of 2 ounces of the drug to the same undercover detective in Twin Falls in January.

Santos has not been charged in Twin Falls County, but according to ISP, he allegedly arranged the purchase by telephone while in Blaine County and could be charged here with aiding and abetting trafficking in the drug.

"The case that was done down in Twin Falls County was part of the Blaine County case," said Gary Kaufman, a detective lieutenant for ISP Region 4 Investigations in Jerome.

Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas said authorities are investigating Santos' possible involvement in other crimes, but he declined to elaborate. Thomas, who often convenes grand juries in drug trafficking cases, would not say whether a grand jury will be convened in this case.

Santos, 26, was charged in Blaine County with trafficking in methamphetamine following a May 14 joint bust by the Narcotics Enforcement Team and ISP. A man identified as Santos' cousin in the Abaid report, 27-year-old Jose Guadalupe Benitez-Diaz, has been charged with aiding and abetting trafficking for allegedly bringing the methamphetamine to Blaine County from Ogden, Utah.

Both Santos and Benitez-Diaz remain incarcerated in the Blaine County jail. Both are accused of being in the United States illegally.

Santos was originally a suspect in the 2003 shooting deaths of Alan and Diane Johnson at the couple's home in Bellevue, but was never charged in the killings. Johnson, now 23, was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to two life prison terms without the possibility of parole.

Kaufman said the Narcotics Enforcement Team was the lead agency in the Santos investigation into alleged illegal drug activity and that ISP played a support role.

"We got in the act by using one of our undercover detectives," he said. "We were called to help Blaine County on it."

Ketchum Police Chief Steve Harkins, who directs the Narcotics Enforcement Team, said police were investigating Santos for about six months prior to the May 14 bust.

"There were some other buys he arranged in Twin Falls," said Harkins, who declined to provide additional details. "It's been an ongoing investigation for at least six months."

Harkins said the arrests of Santos and Benitez-Diaz severed a "major meth artery" to the Wood River Valley.

The Abaid report alleges that Santos and Benitez-Diaz, who went by the nickname of "Lalo," were involved in a large methamphetamine operation. Abaid wrote that the ISP undercover detective had discussed future purchases with Lalo prior to the May 14 arrests.

"In regards to bringing the drugs to Blaine County, Lalo was asked if he could bring it up every two weeks," Abaid wrote in the report. "Lalo responded by saying he could bring it up 'every three days if you want.'"

Terry Smith:

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