DOWNTOWN A two-year investigation into drug trafficking between Canada and the United States, dubbed Operation Candystore, ended Tuesday with seven arrests and brings to 18 the number of defendants named in two indictments, officials said.
The seven arrested, including Santa Monica resident Michelle Enck, 39, are allegedly linked to a bi-national drug-trafficking ring that imported Ecstasy and marijuana from Canada to the United States and sent cocaine north of the border, said Thom Mrozek of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The organization was allegedly overseen in the United States by Jason I. Ming Wei, a Canadian national charged in the main indictment that levels eight charges against 17 defendants, Mrozek said.
Another suspect, Nathanael Garrard Lineham of Newport Beach, is accused of running a company called Data Locking and used and distributed encrypted Blackberries to facilitate drug trafficking. Lineham and Enck are believed to be boyfriend and girlfriend.
Enck was named in both indictments and faces charges of conspiracy to distribute Ecstasy and money laundering, along with Lineham.
During the investigation, authorities seized money and narcotics, including one 60-kilogram shipment of cocaine and another 35-kilogram shipment.
Mrozek said the arrests were made possible in part by work done by the Santa Monica Police Department’s narcotics unit.
Officers with the SMPD, along with officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in July arrested Alexandru Sabau, 37, for allegedly smuggling Ecstasy into the U.S. from Canada and exchanging it for caches of cocaine. The arrest was the result of a three-month joint undercover probe between SMPD and ICE.
SMPD officers started by arresting low-level dealers and then worked their way up the food chain to major supplies.
Sabau was arrested near his Newport Beach apartment after he arrived for a roadside meeting with an informant to finalize a deal to trade approximately 100,000 Ecstasy tablets for 25 kilograms of cocaine, authorities said. When Sabau flashed the drugs, officers moved in for the arrest.
The pills, which typically retail for $20 a tablet, would have brought as much as $2 million on the street.
The arrests Tuesday have dismantled one of the largest drug operations in the southwest, said SMPD Sgt. Bob Almada, who is in charge of vice and narcotics.
Since the arrest of Sabau and the disruption of the ring, the street value for Ecstasy has increased while the quality and supply have decreased, almost to the point where the supply “has dried up,” Almada said.
Mrozek said the arrest of Sabau led authorities to dozens of accomplices.
Arrested Tuesday were:
• Jerry Fanyuan Lin, 32, of Temple City, who allegedly obtained
narcotics from Wei and had his own distribution network;
• Jose G. Garibay, also known as “Guero,” 28, of La Puente, an alleged methamphetamine supplier;
• Fausto Villa Perez, 49, of Santa Ana, who allegedly helped distribute cocaine on behalf of Wei;
• Ming Chien Hsieh, also known as “Sonny,” 24, of San Gabriel, who allegedly distributed narcotics for Lin;
• Alexander Chiang, a 19-year-old UC Santa Barbara student allegedly involved in a series of drug transactions with Lin;
• Nathanael Garrard Lineham, 39, of Newport Beach, who is named in both indictments and accused of conspiracy to distribute ecstasy and conspiracy to launder money.
Mrozek said that Wei, 30, of Temple City, was arrested Sunday night at Los Angeles International Airport while preparing to board a flight to Canada. He was brought to court Monday and ordered held without bond pending arraignment on Oct. 8.
Others named in the indictments are:
• Ren Sui, also known as “Jeffrey,” 31, of Rosemead, who allegedly acted as a middleman between Lin and an undercover FBI agent;
• Erik Damien Vicente, 41, of Baldwin Park, who is accused of supplying methamphetamine;
• Shane Kelter, 31, of Vancouver, Canada, who allegedly oversaw Wei in his smuggling operation between the two countries;
• Adrian Garcia De Alba, also known as “Pedro,” 31, of Canyon Lake, an alleged drug courier;
• Jagmohan S. Dhillon, 35, of Toronto, a courier who allegedly took drugs to Canada on behalf of Wei;
• Paramijt Singh, also known as “Pumma,” 32, of Toronto, who allegedly had the same role as Dhillon;
• Walther Edgardo Orellana Aguilar, also known as “Sharky,” 28, of Vancouver and Los Angeles. He allegedly helped distribute Wei’s cocaine in Canada;
• Long Yee Chow, also known as “Annie,” 28, of Rowland Heights, Lin’s girlfriend;
• Marco Antonio Silva Mota, 35, of Los Angeles, an alleged methamphetamine supplier; and
• John Wark, also known as “Keith,” 39, of Vancouver, Canada, who is charged with Lineham and Enck in the second indictment.
Most of the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted, Mrozek said.