03/12/2007

Fake drugs lead to arrests; Calif. dealer sold cops baking soda

By Gary Klien
Marin Independent Journal

A suspected drug dealer who ripped off cocaine customers by selling them baking soda was arrested after selling the powder to an undercover agent in Marin City, police said.

He also led police to two other suspects who were dealing the real stuff, according to the Marin County Major Crimes Task Force.

Why he did that, we don t know, but we re glad he did, said sheriff s Sgt. Rudy Yamanoha, a task force supervisor.

The alleged baking soda schemer, identified as 25-year-old Dante Ray Hayes of San Francisco, was charged Friday with selling the baking soda, said Deputy District Attorney Tom McCallister. Even though the powder was not a drug, it is still a crime under California law to offer to sell drugs and substitute fraudulently represented items.

The agreement was to sell cocaine, and he s trying to pass it off as cocaine, McCallister said.

The suspects with real cocaine were identified as 21-year-old Joshua Felix of Alameda and 29-year-old Francisco Ley of San Francisco. Both were charged with selling a controlled substance and conspiracy to sell cocaine, McCallister said.

The arrests occurred Wednesday after a one-month investigation by the task force, the county s narcotics squad. According to task force Detective Mike Kirby, Hayes was soliciting cocaine customers through advertisements on , where he euphemistically offered ski lift tickets and snowballs for sale.

An undercover agent arranged to meet Hayes at the Gateway Shopping Center in Marin City and buy 9 ounces of cocaine for $6,300. After the transaction, the undercover agent asked Hayes where he could get more cocaine, and Hayes gave the cell phone number of his cocaine supplier, Kirby said.

Police then arrested Hayes and called the cocaine supplier to arrange another sale a few hours later. The suspected cocaine supplier, identified as Felix, and an assistant, Ley, arrived late Wednesday night and were arrested after the transaction.

After the arrests, investigators discovered that the powder Hayes sold was not cocaine at all, but baking powder. This posed a question police are still puzzling over: Why would Hayes, having just ripped off a customer for $6,300, direct the potentially disgruntled drug user to his own supplier?

He just wasn t thinking, Kirby said.

Hayes told police he had ripped off 50 to 100 other people with the baking soda scheme after gaining their trust with smaller cocaine deals, Kirby said. Hayes said he was planning to disappear soon, possibly to Las Vegas, according to Kirby.

The conclusion was satisfying to task force agents. Felix was the target of the investigation.

We re seeing a lot of cocaine in the county, Kirby said. It hasn t gone away. We re seeing more of it now.

No pleas have been entered in the case. Hayes, who is due back in court Monday, remained in custody at the county jail Friday in lieu of $65,000 bail.

Ley, who is also scheduled to appear Monday, remained in jail Friday in lieu of $30,000 bail.

Felix, whose bail was set at $30,000, was released pending further hearings.

Copyright 2007 Marin Independent Journal, a MediaNews Group publication
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