Drug enforcement agents tracked a West Coast drug trafficking operation to a Riverbank supplier, arresting 11 people and confiscating drugs, guns and about $250,000 in cash.
According to the Santa Barbara Regional Narcotic Enforcement Team, which spearheaded the case, the arrest Saturday of Roberto Martin Mendoza Ballardo, 33, of Riverbank came at the end of a six-month investigation into the trafficking of methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.
According to team commander Scott Baker, the investigation started with a Santa Maria dealer named Cesar Rodriguez, 32. Ballardo was suspected of being Rodriguez' supplier.
Investigators watched several meetings between Ballardo and various people in Fresno last Friday and stopped a vehicle after what looked like a drug transaction. They found $200,000 in a hidden compartment.
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The next day, agents arrested Ballardo and his girlfriend, Patty Monson, in Eugene, Ore. They found 8 pounds of methamphetemine hidden in his car, Baker said.
In all, agents recovered 11 pounds of methamphetamine, 9 pounds of heroin, a half-pound of cocaine, one handgun and about $250,000 in cash. They arrested suspected drug runners in Fresno, Merced, Santa Maria, and the Modesto and Riverbank area.
Baker said Ballardo was doing a brisk business, importing drugs from Mexico and distributing them throughout California and into other states.
"He probably brought in $20,000 a week," he said.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.