UPDATE: Meth bust among largest in county history

Regional drug task force recovers 74 pounds of drug worth nearly $1 million

By Paul Suarez, Columbian freelance


Updated: August 8, 2012, 7:42 PM

photoThe Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force seized 74 pounds of crystal meth in a series of raids earlier this week.

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photoA Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force detective collects individual bags of methamphetamine in the Clark County Sheriff's Office headquarters Wednesday.

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Other major local meth busts

In 2011, the then Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force seized more than 16 pounds of meth following the search of several Vancouver locations, including downtown restaurant-nightclub El Parral.

In 2008, a Vancouver police Neighborhood Response Team seized 18 pounds of meth while investigating a forgery case in La Center.

Police announced Wednesday that they made a $1 million methamphetamine bust earlier this week, the largest single meth seizure in county history.

After serving a series of search warrants Monday afternoon into Tuesday morning, the Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force recovered 74 pounds of crystal methamphetamine from an apartment at 11304 S.E. 10th St. in Cascade Park, Cmdr. Mike Cooke said Wednesday morning. The apartment was allegedly used as a safe house for drug traffickers, police said.

The value of the meth is estimated to be about $932,400 based on a street price of $12,600 per pound, the sheriff’s office said.

That’s the bulk price, said Sgt. Shane Gardner, a sheriff’s office spokesman. If sold on the street, where a typical person will use an amount the size of a sugar packet, it could be worth more, he said.

Santos Camacho-Cardenas, 23, of Vancouver was arrested at the apartment on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine. He is in the Clark County Jail on $250,000 bail with an immigrations hold, the sheriff’s office said.

Amy Hill, Al Angelo Company community supervisor, said her company was caught off guard by the drug activity at the Cascades Apartments. Security personnel hired by the apartments didn’t notice suspicious activity and management didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary during an inspection about a month ago.

“We screen all of our residents completely and thoroughly,” she said.

There was a single woman on the lease and management wasn’t familiar with any of the people who were arrested.

“We just want it known that we take criminal activity very seriously,” she said. Management will be taking action, she said, but declined to specify what that would be.

Drug task force detectives along with personnel with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Portland police HIT team raided five other locations earlier in the week. They were:

• Roads End Farm Estates, 4318 N.E. 55th Place, Vancouver.

• 4706 N.E. 152nd Ave., Vancouver.

• 16506 N.E. 99th St., Vancouver.

•2326 Neals Lane, Vancouver.

• Dell Terrace Apartments, 7416 N.E. Hazel Dell Ave. No. 48, Vancouver.

Hever Zavala-Leon, 31, of Vancouver was arrested at the Hazel Dell Avenue location on suspicion of being an alien in possession of a firearm. He is in the Clark County Jail on $10,000 bail.

During the searches, police seized $45,000 in cash, four firearms (two reported stolen) and four vehicles. Police also seized two “large containers” of methamphetamine oil, which is sometimes trafficked instead of crystal meth because it can be put into household containers to be transported and “nobody would be the wiser,” Cooke said.

Earlier arrests

In May, the task force also arrested two men and recovered cash in connection with the investigation. The task force recovered about $120,000 in cash from two suspects who had traveled from California to Clark County to collect money from meth sales, the task force said. Alejandro Guerrero-Corona, 31, of Los Angeles, and Eduardo Herrera-Ibarra, 28, of Vancouver were arrested when they started heading south on Interstate 5 from the Hazel Dell area with the money. Guerrero-Corona was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance cocaine and money laundering. Herrera-Ibarra was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance methamphetamine, possession of a stolen firearm and alien in possession of a firearm.

Guerrero-Corona is in the Clark County Jail. He was sentenced to 180 days on the possession charge and has an immigration hold, the sheriff’s office said. Herrera-Ibarra was not listed on the online jail roster.

The searches resulted from a long-term investigation into a Mexican drug-trafficking organization that transports large amounts of methamphetamine from California to distribute throughout Vancouver and Portland.

The investigation will result in a “significant impact on the local drug supply,” Cooke said in a release. Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Gardner said there is no indication the meth was produced locally but it shows people are still using it. Those people are willing to do “almost anything to get it,” he said, including committing property crime and fraud. He expects a sample of the drug would be kept for use in court and the rest will be destroyed.