[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Sunny
Sunny
80°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
November 15
1978 - Southern Pacific Saugus depot closes; later moved & used as SCV Historical Society museum [story]


The dismantling of a multi-state drug trafficking organization that used the U.S. Postal Service to mail packages of crystal methamphetamine and marijuana from California to traffickers in Pennsylvania since at least April 2016 – and the arrests of five leaders who spearheaded the corrupt organization, including two from the Santa Clarita Valley – were announced Wednesday by Montgomery County (Penn.) District Attorney Kevin R. Steele.

Through the course of the investigation, law enforcement identified what they believed to be more than 350 pounds of illegal crystal methamphetamine and marijuana sent in multiple shipments.

Two leaders were arrested in Pennsylvania: Lorraine Y. Zeno, 36, and Brian J. Holt, 42, both of Ambler, Pa.; and three in California: Leonardo Christian Fernandez, 34, of Monrovia, Calif.; Joel Travis Hills-Garcia, 29, of Santa Clarita, Calif.; and Patrick M. Fry, 43, of Saugus, Calif. Together, these suspects were known during the investigation as “The Big Five.”

Hills-Garcia/Fry

Joel Travis Hills-Garcia, from Santa Clarita (L) and Patrick M. Fry, from Saugus

The arrests were the result of a multi-agency investigation involving:

• Montgomery County Detective Bureau Narcotics Enforcement Team

• United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)

• FBI Bucks and Montgomery Safe Streets Task Force

• Upper Dublin Township Police Department

• Bucks County District Attorney’s Office Detectives Drug Strike Task Force

• Drug Enforcement Administration (Philadelphia Division)

• Philadelphia-Camden High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)

• Philadelphia Police Narcotics Unit—IDIS

• New Jersey State Police

• Little Egg Harbor Township Police Department

• Pennsylvania State Police Eastern Interdiction Unit

• Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Intelligence Center (PACIC)

• Middle Atlantic-Great Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network (MAGLOCLEN).

“Through the joint efforts of multiple law enforcement agencies, we were able to shut down a significant drug trafficking organization that was operating in Southeastern Pennsylvania and work our way back to their suppliers in California,” said Steele. “This investigation again illustrates that law enforcement is united in our fight against deadly drugs of all kinds—heroin, opioids, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and pills. All of this poison is killing residents of Montgomery County and other communities in the region, and those that traffic this poison need to realize it’s not worth it because we are going to keep investigating, arresting and holding accountable those responsible.”

These arrests were the culmination of a lengthy joint investigation of this corrupt organization. The investigation began when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service identified a suspicious Express Mail parcel shipped from California to Montgomery County, Pa. With the authority of a federal search and seizure warrant, the USPIS discovered that the parcel contained approximately one pound of crystal methamphetamine. The joint investigation was launched soon after and ultimately found the cross-country shipments of bulk quantities of crystal methamphetamine and marijuana to members of the Zeno-Holt corrupt drug trafficking organization. Investigators learned that the shipments received were then sold to other drug dealers and individuals across Montgomery and Bucks counties and Philadelphia. From Southeastern Pennsylvania, this corrupt organization headed by Zeno and Holt, sent illegal proceeds for the shipments of crystal methamphetamine and marijuana to Fernandez, Hills-Garcia, Fry and others in California. At times, they also personally delivered illegal proceeds.

Court-authorized wiretaps on the cellular phones of Zeno, Holt and Fernandez provided evidence to Montgomery County detectives and other participating law enforcement agencies to identify the sources of supply in California. Investigators also learned the identities of Zeno and Holt’s crystal methamphetamine customers, many of whom were distributors of crystal methamphetamine themselves.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service first identified the suspicious packages to begin this investigation. “For over 200 years, the Postal Inspection Service has protected America’s employees, facilities and customers. This case exemplifies our ongoing commitment to eliminating from the mail stream the illegal narcotics that poison our youth and devastate our community. Our objective was to identify this drug trafficking organization, both here and at its source in California, and completely dismantle it,” said Brubaker. “We accomplished our objective. Our collective success today is indicative of the collaborative relationship between all levels of law enforcement in the Delaware Valley and should be celebrated.”

The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office and Detective Bureau were an integral part of the investigative team. Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said, “Once we arrested Holt, we assisted many other law enforcement agencies in holding ‘The Big Five’ and their nationwide narco-trafficking organization criminally accountable. This was a great team effort by law enforcement. Bottom line: crystal meth, marijuana and the mail don’t mix.”

Jeremiah A. Daley, executive director of the Philadelphia-Camden HIDTA, said there has been an increase of methamphetamine trafficking regionally in the last two or three years. “While we have collectively prioritized combatting the ‘opioid epidemic’ in our region and our nation, we cannot overlook other pernicious controlled substance threats and allow traffickers of crystal methamphetamines to go unchecked. As this case clearly illustrates, meth is a significant threat to people in our communities; we are very grateful to the combined local, state and federal law enforcement agencies who doggedly pursued this criminal enterprise across the continent.”

In Montgomery County, Steele noted that there has been a significant increase in both methamphetamine drug trafficking as well as deaths caused by the drug. Eight overdose deaths from methamphetamine were recorded in all of 2016 by the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. According to the latest coroner’s report, 19 overdose deaths were caused by methamphetamines in the first three-quarters alone of 2017 (through Sept. 30, 2017)—a 316 percent increase over 2016.

“Meth is making a resurgence. We are seeing an upswing in methamphetamine dealing, usage and overdose deaths here in Montgomery County, which mirrors the rest of the country,” said Steele. “Meth is deadly and cheap. And it is flowing into Montgomery County from California, in this case using the U.S. Postal Service and other carriers. Drug traffickers make the false assumption that using the mail or hiding drugs in car batteries will keep them safe from detection. They are wrong. And we are on to them.”

Zeno was initially arrested on Possession with Intent to Deliver charges on Nov. 8, 2017, and has been in the Montgomery County Correctional Facility after failing to post bail of $500,000. Holt was initially arrested in Bucks County on Nov. 8, 2017, on felony firearms charges. He failed to post bail of $10,000 and has been in the Bucks County Correctional Facility since.

Additional charges against both Holt and Zeno were filed on Jan. 10, 2018, including Corrupt Organizations, Possession with the Intent to Deliver, Dealing in the Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, Criminal Use of a Communication Facility and related charges. Holt also was charged with Person Not to Possess a Firearm. The defendants were arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Patricia Zaffarano, who set bail for each defendant at $500,000 cash bail. They failed to post bail and were remanded to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. Holt’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for 12:45 p.m., Jan. 18, 2018, and Zeno’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for 12:15 p.m., Jan. 29, 2018, both before Judge Zaffarano.

Fernandez, Fry and Hills-Garcia were arrested in California. They will be extradited to Montgomery County to face these charges. Fifteen additional people were arrested or are being sought by law enforcement in this case on charges ranging from possession to Possession with Intent to Deliver.

The case will be prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Robert J. Kolansky and Samantha L. Thompson.

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

6 Comments

  1. Jeanne says:

    Yeah! Great job. Time to kill the drug rings in California too. These are narco terrorists trying to kill our kids!

    BUILD THE WALL!

    • SCgal says:

      You are an idiot, these Narco “terrorists” (your word not mine) that were arrested are all home grown American men and women. Tell me again how that wall will help? Way to politicize an issue that transcends politics

  2. Jeanne says:

    Why just the pictures of the out of state dealers?
    Show the local faces too so maybe we can give law enforcement info if we think we know something about these local people.

  3. DP Rickmers says:

    Prohibition makes drug problems criminal opportunities. Education saves lives, even in a shooting gallery.

  4. Jeanne says:

    If you are high on Meth and searching through trash for whatever then you are better in a jail then on the street. You are best off in a rehab which we need more of. Once clean for a period of time then court should and does clear record so you can get employment.

    We should not let people addicted roam high on the streets. They need help. Also mentally ill people should be placed in facility until able to take care of themselves, if they ever are. We went the wrong way back in the 1980’s when we stopped caring for mentally ill and let them roam uncared for. Yes we need to make sure they have good care but they do need care. Letting them stay homeless is a shame we all share.

    I see new legislature is coming through on the federal level to require rehab be provided in jail facilities. Long overdue.

Leave a Comment


SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018
CHP Implements ‘Age Well, Drive Smart’ for Senior Drivers
SACRAMENTO - Every year, as the percentage of drivers age 65 and older increases, many look to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to help them maintain their ability to drive safely.
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018
Officials Raise Fire Danger Levels in Angeles National Forest to ‘Extreme’
Fire officials raised the Fire Danger Level from “Very High” to “Extreme” in the Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
The Silvertone Singers, in an effort to raise funding for the new Senior Center set to open in Spring 2019, presents a concert focusing on the theme of "Money."
Nov. 29: Concert, Art Exhibit Benefiting SCV Senior Center
SACRAMENTO - Every year, as the percentage of drivers age 65 and older increases, many look to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to help them maintain their ability to drive safely.
CHP Implements ‘Age Well, Drive Smart’ for Senior Drivers
Smart & Final Stores, Inc., the value-oriented food and everyday staples retailer, reported Wednesday financial results for the fiscal third quarter ended Oct. 7, 2018.
Smart & Final Overall Sales Increased 2.8% Over Last Year
No. 1 College of the Canyons will host No. 4 Ventura College in a California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Southern California Regional Playoff first round matchup at Cougar Stadium on Saturday Nov. 17. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.
No. 1 Canyons Faces Off Against No. 4 Ventura in First Round Matchup
Grab your broom, don your ruby red slippers and travel to the wonderful land of Oz – long before Dorothy and her friends burst onto the scene.
City Offering ‘Wicked’ Excursion to Pantages Theatre
Fire officials raised the Fire Danger Level from “Very High” to “Extreme” in the Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
Officials Raise Fire Danger Levels in Angeles National Forest to ‘Extreme’
1978 - Southern Pacific Saugus depot closes; later moved & used as SCV Historical Society museum [story]
Republican incumbent Dante Acosta conceded Wednesday to Democratic challenger Christy Smith in the tight race for California's 38th Assembly District seat in the Nov. 6 general election.
Acosta Concedes to Smith in Assembly Race as Ballot Tally Continues
There's a temptation inherent to a free-flowing and high scoring game.
TMU Men’s Hoopsters Show Selflessness in Win Over Bethesda
TMU's women's volleyball team will fly to Sioux City, Iowa, to begin pool play on Nov. 27 to Nov. 29.
TMU Women’s Volleyball Earns Bye to NAIA Final Site in Iowa
Before Saturday night's GSAC title game, the PA announcer indulged himself in a bit of low-hanging humor.
TMU Women’s Volleyball Wins GSAC Tourney Title, Earns NAIA Bid
Master's women's volleyball team scored a 3-0 semifinal win over Menlo College on the way to the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament at Hope International in Fullerton.
TMU Women’s Volleyball Team Advances to GSAC Title Game
The Mustangs trailed almost all the way through three quarters, rallied in the fourth, and held on to down No. 7 Carroll 61-56 in Helena, Montana Friday.
TMU Women’s Hoopsters Close Trip with Win Over No. 7 Carroll
College of the Canyons was the team favorite to capture this year's California Community College Athletic Association women's golf state championship and the Cougars didn't disappoint on Monday, winning the program's third title.
Canyons Wins 2018 CCCAA Women’s Golf State Championship
No. 1 College of the Canyons completed a perfect 10-0 regular season and claimed its first conference championship in five years with a rousing 42-30 comeback victory over longtime conference rival No. 18 Bakersfield College.
No. 1 Cougars Finish Regular Season Perfect 10-0 to Claim Conference Title
Los Angeles County homeowners whose properties have been damaged or destroyed by the Woolsey, Hill, or Pike fires may be eligible for property tax relief.
County Officials Offer Property Tax Relief for Homeowners Affected by Wildfires
Until further notice, the California Film Commission will not accept applications for filming along Pacific Coast Highway, which is closed from Sunset Blvd. north to Las Posas Road due to the Woolsey Fire.
Filming Permit Applications Suspended in Woolsey Fire Areas
A small brush fire was reported off Interstate 5 south of Highway 138 in the Gorman area just after noon Wednesday, according to Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station officials.
Firefighters Douse Small Brush Fire Near Gorman
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve a temporary rent stabilization policy in the unincorporated areas of LA County in order to protect renters threatened by skyrocketing rents.
Supes OK Rent Control Ordinance for Unincorporated County
California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Wednesday surveyed wildfire damage in Butte County and issued an executive order to cut red tape and help streamline recovery efforts across the state.
Brown Surveys Fire Damage, Orders Streamlined Cleanup, Recovery Aid
Nearly 700,000 ballots cast in the Nov. 6 general election remain to be counted, according to the second ballot counting update from Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan on Tuesday afternoon.
County Posts Second Results Update for Nov. 6 Election
Express Employment Professionals will host the world-renowned Express Employment Professionals Clydesdales at the local Express office in Santa Clarita on Friday, Nov. 16, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Nov. 16: Express Employment Professionals to Host Clydesdales for Carousel Ranch Benefit
Tax revenue reported by the cannabis industry in the third quarter of 2018 totaled $93.1 million for returns received through Oct. 31, an increase of more than $13 million over the second quarter.
State Cannabis Tax Revenue Higher by $13M in Third Quarter 2018
The Civilian Oversight Commission for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will host its next monthly meeting on Thursday, Nov. 15, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Nov. 15: Civilian Oversight Commission for Sheriff’s Department Meeting
The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control is working to provide safe sheltering for animals as a result of the fires that have affected thousands of Los Angeles County residents.
County Shelters Caring for Animal Victims of Woolsey Fire
1935 - Voters approve $22,000 construction bond to build a bigger Saugus School. WPA kicked in another $17,181. [story]
As late absentee and provisional ballots continue to be counted in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, Democratic challenger Christy Smith has pulled ahead of Republican incumbent Dante Acosta in the 38th Assembly District race.
Smith Takes Lead Over Acosta in Assembly Vote Tally
LOS ANGELES – As first responders continue to battle the #WoolseyFire, Los Angeles County has launched comprehensive and coordinated recovery efforts to support the residents displaced by the fire.
County Partners with State, Feds for Woolsey Fire Recovery Efforts
SCVi, iLEAD’s founding school serving learners in grades TK through 12, will welcome students, parents and interested members of the community to two Prospective Family Meetings Wednesday and Thursday.
Nov. 14, 15: SCVi’s Prospective Family Meetings
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Ralph Breaks the Internet, the sequel to the critical and commercially successful Wreck-It Ralph (2012), comes out next week (Nov. 21) on the day before Thanksgiving.
CalArts Alum Discusses Approach to ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’
NORTHRIDGE - The CSUN men's and women's cross country teams completed the 2018 season Saturday at the NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championship at Haggin Oaks Golf Course in Sacramento.
Matadors Wrap Up 2018 Cross Country Season at NCAA West Regionals
A Monday morning collision in Stevenson Ranch killed one person, said officials at the California Highway Patrol.
Valencia Resident Killed in Stevenson Ranch Crash
LOS ANGELES – According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, smoke from Woolsey Fire has caused unhealthy air quality that affects everyone in areas directly impacted by smoke, including portions of:
Smoke Advisory Issued for SCV
The California State University (CSU) has announced accommodations for applicants affected by recent wildfires who are applying for admission to CSU campuses for the fall 2019 term.
CSU Applicants Affected by Wildfires May Request Deadline Extension