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For the week of February 14 through 20, 2001

14 arrested for drug trafficking

Express Staff Writers

A major narcotics bust conducted by local and federal law enforcement agencies last week is expected to significantly reduce the availability of illegal drugs in Blaine County.

A year’s worth of investigative work came to a head at 6 a.m. Wednesday when 60 officers executed four search warrants at four different locations in Ketchum, Hailey and Blaine County, making 11 arrests and in addition rounding up 26 apparently illegal aliens. Three more arrests were made Thursday outside the county.

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling said no one was injured in Wednesday’s raids and no one resisted arrest. One firearm was found and confiscated.

The bust netted over a pound of cocaine and of methamphetamine, two and a half pounds of marijuana and more than $10,000 in cash. Femling estimated the street value of the drugs to be more than $50,000.

The suspects were taken to Blaine County jail, where they were detained on bonds ranging from $10,000 to $200,000.

Asked if this was the biggest drug bust in the valley’s history, Femling said he wasn’t sure yet. It was, however, the largest number of traffickers ever arrested at once.

"They were major players in the drugs being sold here," Femling said.

Most of those arrested were charged with trafficking, but one was charged with possession and two others with frequenting the drug houses. He said there was no evidence of manufacture of drugs, including methamphetamine.

The 26 aliens detained were taken immediately to Twin Falls for processing by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. INS holds were also put on nine of the eleven people arrested Wednesday, meaning they will not be released from jail until their immigration status is reviewed.

Agencies involved in the operation included the Blaine County Sheriff’s Department, the Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey Police Departments, the Bellevue Marshal’s Department, the Idaho State Police, the FBI, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Border Patrol.

"This investigation was focusing on meth," Femling said. "Our effort over the past couple of years has been the meth craze. Rural areas all over the U.S. have been inundated. We are seeing more and more meth coming into Blaine County."

Femling said much of the evidence for the arrests came from undercover drug buys totaling tens of thousands of dollars. He said he hoped to recoup some of that from the $10,000 cash that was seized.

"Whether we get to keep it is up to a judge," he said. "You can’t always get your money back."

Arrested Wednesday were Daniel Mendoza, 20, Hailey; Alfredo Tamayo, 27, Ketchum; Christopher Golliher, 28, Hailey; Vincente Munoz, 47, Hailey; Topete Beliz, 27, Ketchum; Alan Contreras, 24, address unknown; J. Romero-Garcia, 24, Hailey; Eduardo Guzman, 37, address unknown; Marco Rios Lopez, 30, Ketchum; Ricardo Cabrera, 24, address unknown; and Susan Nance, 42, Ketchum.

Three more arrests were made Thursday in connection with illegal drug sales in Blaine County. The DEA arrested Adrian Rodriguez, 25, in Caldwell and the FBI arrested Louis Eugene Cunningham, 58, in Laguna Beach, Calif., both on felony charges of selling marijuana. Gerald Lopez, already in custody in the Owyhee County jail on an unrelated charge, was charged with felony sale of methamphetamine.

Femling said an additional suspect, Arbi Ochoa, 26, fled on foot from a Bavarian Village apartment when it was raided and is still at large.

Femling acknowledged that officers probably have not apprehended everyone involved in the distribution network. In addition, he said, "there are certainly other people ready to step into their place, but they’d better be looking over their shoulders because we’ll be there, too."

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