Two men arrested in connection with county drug-trafficking case

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

Updated: March 20, 2013, 6:23 PM

 

The Clark-Vancouver Regional Drug Task Force arrested two men in east Vancouver Tuesday evening in connection with a local drug-trafficking investigation. One of the men, Pastor “German” Vargas-Castro, 22, is a known drug-trafficker who was arrested by the task force last year and deported back to Mexico, according to a news release from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

One of the men, Pastor "German" Vargas-Castro, 22, is a known drug trafficker who was arrested by the task force last year and deported back to Mexico, according to a news release from the Clark County Sheriff's Office.

Officers on Wednesday discovered 2 pounds of methamphetamine valued at nearly $30,000 at an Orchards home.

Vargas-Castro was arrested Feb. 2, 2012, during an investigation into methamphetamine trafficking in Clark County. During that arrest, Vargas-Castro was found to be in possession of a half-pound of methamphetamine, two loaded handguns and approximately $10,000 in cash, the news release said. He was charged with drug and weapons offenses and sentenced to four years in state prison after pleading guilty in Clark County Superior Court. Under Department of Corrections guidelines, he was deported to Mexico in lieu of serving the prison sentence.

Former Gov. Chris Gregoire moved forward with a cost-saving measure in 2009 to deport illegal immigrants serving prison time. While there's an economic benefit, task force Cmdr. Mike Cooke says the move sends a message that illegal immigrants can deal drugs with deportation as the sole consequence.

"(Illegal immigrant offenders) find a way back usually within days or weeks of their deportation," Cooke said. "I'm not sure how effective of a policy that is."

Shortly after Vargas-Castro's release and deportation, the task force learned he illegally re-entered the U.S. and was again trafficking methamphetamine in Clark County. The task force determined that he used a dark blue BMW sedan, which was spotted in east Vancouver on Tuesday afternoon being driven by a female believed to be his girlfriend. Detectives followed the car to a residence in Orchards at 7407B N.E. 129th Ave.

Collision, K-9

Around 6 p.m., Vargas-Castro left the house with another man in a black pickup truck. Detectives followed the pickup south on Northeast 136th Avenue while waiting for a Vancouver police K-9 unit to assist with the apprehension.

Near the intersection of Northeast 136th Avenue and Northeast Ninth Street, the suspects realized they were being followed and suddenly accelerated southbound on Northeast 136th Avenue and then attempted to turn onto westbound Ninth. While turning, the pickup struck the driver's side of a car stopped at a red light, the news release said.

After the collision, the two suspects jumped from their still-moving pickup and attempted to flee on foot. One of the suspects, later identified as Nestor Cruz, 37, ran to the east where he was apprehended in the WinCo Foods parking lot by bystanders who witnessed the hit-and-run collision.

Vargas-Castro ran north into a large, open field. Vancouver Officer Jack Anderson deployed his K-9 partner, Ike, who quickly caught Vargas-Castro in the middle of the field. Vargas-Castro was taken into custody by Anderson and task force detectives and treated at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center for a bite wound, the news release said.

"We found a large amount of methamphetamine on Vargas-Castro's person after he was caught in the field," Cooke said. "We could also see a handgun in the driver's door of the truck after the suspects jumped out and ran so this certainly had the potential of being a much more violent apprehension than it was."

More charges likely

Vargas-Castro was arrested and booked at the Clark County Jail on outstanding warrants related to his unlawful entry back into the U.S. and his previous convictions, according to the news release. Cooke anticipates additional drug and weapons charges.

Cruz was arrested and booked into the Clark County Jail on outstanding warrants and may face additional charges as the investigation continues.

Detectives performed a consented search of the Orchards home Wednesday, seizing some items including a lock box that contained four plastic bags of meth. The task force also plans to execute a search warrant on the pickup truck.