Editor's Note — Your awareness of common concealment locations can help you recognize and react to furtive movement towards particular areas in a vehicle that could signal an attack. It can also help you take proactive steps to turn common traffic stops into contraband busts. Read P1's 6 vehicle concealment alerts.
By Stuart Silverstein
The Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Cracking down on a suspected cocaine- and methamphetamine-dealing ring, federal agents arrested three people Wednesday afternoon and seized 147 vehicles linked to a used car dealership in the East Los Angeles area.
Authorities said that the operators of Brooklyn Auto Sales were involved in dealing drugs and selling vehicles with hidden compartments to other drug-trafficking organizations in Los Angeles. The dealership at East 3rd Street and South Eastern Avenue was under investigation by federal authorities for two years.
"Drugs were transported in every type of hidden compartment imaginable, and brought into our communities under the guise of this auto dealership," Timothy J. Landrum, the special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles, said in a prepared statement.
"These arrests and seizures will have a significant impact on the ability of criminals to transport and distribute cocaine, meth and marijuana into our neighborhoods," he said.
Arrested at the dealership by federal agents, with the aid of local police agencies, were Santos Robledo, 45, of Los Angeles; Pedro Partida, 34, of Pomona; and Jose Escobar Jr., 25, of Pomona.
Partida and Robledo, both managers at the dealership, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to distribute narcotics.
Authorities said they were caught in a sting operation after negotiating to receive 40 pounds of methamphetamine with an estimated wholesale value of $800,000.
Escobar, an employee of the dealership, was arrested on suspicion of money laundering.
Authorities said about 70 of the 147 seized vehicles were removed from Brooklyn Auto Sales.
The other autos, allegedly used to transport drugs around much of the country, were seized from homes and other sites in Pico Rivera, West Covina and Baldwin Park.
At the Baldwin Park site, an assault weapon and three handguns were also seized, authorities said.
The three suspects face arraignment in federal District Court in Los Angeles today. They were being held late Wednesday at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center downtown.
DEA agents, clad in the agency's black T-shirts and baseball caps, spent much of the afternoon gathering evidence at the dealership and driving off vehicles suspected of being used to distribute drugs.
Copyright 2007 The Los Angeles Times
DEA busts 3, seizes 147 vehicles linked to drug ring