El Rancho Viejo manager appears in court on drug accusations

Owner says he had no idea about alleged meth distribution




The owner of the El Rancho Viejo restaurant in Vancouver said Monday he had no idea one of his managers was allegedly distributing methamphetamine from the business.

“I trusted him,” said Roberto Guitron, El Rancho Viejo’s owner. “This is really bad because I’m trying to clean up his mess.”

Guitron was overseeing business at the restaurant Monday. Meanwhile, restaurant manager Ramon Lopez-Guitron, the owner’s cousin, made his first appearance in Clark County Superior Court.

Judge Daniel Stahnke set bail at $50,000 for Lopez-Guitron, 44, who is accused of three counts of delivery of a controlled substance, conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and maintaining a drug dwelling.

Lopez-Guitron will be arraigned Dec. 2. When asked whether he can afford his own attorney, he told the judge he expects to retain a lawyer.

Described by investigators as a “major player” in distributing meth in Clark County, Lopez-Guitron was arrested Wednesday following a lengthy investigation. Police said Lopez-Guitron sold meth from the restaurant at 6321 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. for at least two years.

According to court documents, Lopez-Guitron was allegedly caught selling meth to undercover informants several times, including 4 ounces in October 2009 and 3 ounces in January 2010.

He’s also accused of selling meth in February and May of this year, court records indicate.

At his first appearance, Lopez-Guitron told a pre-trial release officer he has no issues with drugs or alcohol. He said he was the manager of the Mexican restaurant for seven years.

Roberto Guitron confirmed Lopez-Guitron managed the location. Police incorrectly described Lopez-Guitron as the owner; Roberto Guitron said his cousin often told people he was the owner, which may have led to the confusion.

Roberto Guitron, who also owns two other locations, in Ridgefield and Camas, said he never suspected anything was amiss at the Fourth Plain location. The first he heard of his cousin’s arrest was from an employee.

He said the publicity has unfairly stained his business, as it has for a fourth location in Battle Ground, owned by another Guitron family member.

“We gave an opportunity to this guy and he messed it up big time,” Roberto Guitron said. “I worked all my life for this. Now because of one person, it’s on the floor.”

In another case of alleged meth-trafficking at a restaurant, the El Parral Mexican Restaurant and Night Club, 704 Main St. in downtown Vancouver, was raided in August.

Task force detectives said they searched El Parral and several other locations and seized more than 16 pounds of meth.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.