Unified Narcotic Enforcement Team agents raided the home of a
suspected Norteno gang member Friday morning shutting down an
alleged mid-level drug dealer and confiscating several illegal
Hollister – Unified Narcotic Enforcement Team agents raided the home of a suspected Norteno gang member Friday morning shutting down an alleged mid-level drug dealer and confiscating several illegal weapons.
Law enforcement officials don’t think the bust will put a significant dent in the gang’s drug sales because of the sheer amount of methamphetamine in the county.
UNET agents, with help from San Benito County Sheriff’s deputies and Hollister police officers, arrested two suspected Norteno gang members on a variety of felony drug and weapons charges after finding three illegal weapons and 1.5 ounces of methamphetamine in a house in the 300 block of Line Street in Hollister.
Agents arrested Gerardo Gonzalez, 34, and Daniel Ortega, 36, on misdemeanor and felony drug and weapons charges. The owner of the house, Ricardo Casas, was not arrested, but police believe he was involved in the operation.
The drugs and weapons were found in the garage of the house. In addition to the drugs and weapons, agents found hundreds of plastic bags and a scale to weigh and distribute the methamphetamine.
UNET Cmdr. Mark Colla said the raid came after a tip from a local resident that Casas, a suspected leader of the gang, was selling drugs out of his home.
Attorney Greg LaForge claims Casas did not know about the drugs or the weapons. LaForge also denies that his client is a gang member.
“He’s a hard working carpenter, father and husband,” LaForge said. “Just because he rented a garage studio apartment doesn’t make him liable for the actions of his tenants.”
A portion of the methamphetamine recovered was mixed with powder from a protein shake mix. Colla said the product is called “coco crank” on the street and is designed to fool police. The three weapons, a small-caliber revolver, a rifle and a sawed-off shotgun, will be sent to federal agents to determine if they were used in other crimes, Colla said.
The bust won’t make a significant dent in the Norteno gang’s local drugs sales, but Colla said every weapon and every ounce of methamphetamine taken off the streets makes the city safer.
San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill agreed that it won’t stop methamphetamine use in San Benito County, but that it would make a difference.
“At least for one day, we have that drug dealer shutdown. There won’t be any drug sales at that house tonight,” Hill said. “This is the most important thing we do.”
The Norteno gang, which has about 100 documented members in Hollister, is primarily a methamphetamine trafficking organization, Colla said.
“We’re really busy. For its size, there is a lot of possession, use and sale of methamphetamine in Hollister,” he said. “That’s what happens when a rural community becomes a city.”
Colla compared Friday’s bust to routine maintenance, like mowing the lawn.
“It’s like your front yard,” he said. “If you just let it grow, you end up with a mess.”
Colla said Casas was probably a mid-level dealer, who could sell one or two ounces a methamphetamine and make $3,500 in a single weekend.
“Typically you can sell any amount of dope for about four times what you purchased it for,” he said. “It’s a huge profit margin.”
Despite the huge profits, Colla said mid-level dealers aren’t rich.
“A lot of that money would go to support their own drug habit, which could be expensive,” he said. “And a good part of the profits usually go to the gang’s hierarchy for distribution.”
The suspects are being held at the San Benito County Jail.
Brett Rowland cover public safety for the Free Lance. He can be reached at 831-637-5566 ext. 330 or [email protected]