Twelve people were taken into custody Friday afternoon after Rio Arriba County sheriff’s deputies raided what was described as a regularly scheduled “sales meeting” of drug traffickers.
The operation turned up “a significant amount” of black tar heroin, prescription medication, cash and stolen property at a home in Tierra Azul, about 15 miles north of Española.
A search warrant was executed at a home shared by Armando A. Madrid, 39, and Amanda P. Madrid, 40, who are brother and sister.
Sheriff Tom Rodella said he’s known the Madrid family has been involved in narcotics for a long time. “I’ve known of them since 1982 when I was with State Police,” he said.
Jake Arnold, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said the siblings were both charged with drug trafficking, along with four other individuals: Allaya Chacon, 23, Victoria Martinez, 31, Robert Kowalezyk, 28, and Bobby Salazar, 36.
In addition, Samantha Salazar, 22, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and child abuse. Arnold said Samantha Salazar is the mother of two children, ages 4 and 5, who were on the premises at the time of the raid. The children are now in the custody of family members.
Arnold said the sheriff’s office had been planning the raid for about three weeks and surveillance on the home began about 1½ weeks ago.
The search warrant was executed at the time it was because the investigation led them to believe that what Arnold termed a “sales meeting” was conducted at the home in the early afternoon on Fridays.
An affidavit for the search warrant was drawn up and signed by a judge Thursday night. Rodella said the warrant was executed about 1:30 p.m. Friday and the raid went smoothly. “No one was willing to come with us, but there was no real resistance,” he said.
Eighteen members of the sheriff’s office conducted the raid, along with a drug sniffing dog and its handler from the Española Police Department.
Rodella said the outer perimeter of the home was secured before deputies moved in.
“It’s important we maintain the element of surprise. More often then not we want to come in with the least amount of notice as possible,” he said.
Deputies did announce their presence before attempting to break down the front door, he said, but a metal security door slowed their progress. Because it was obvious to deputies that there was a lot of movement inside the home, deputies forced entry into the home through two windows.
“It was important to get in there before anyone could get rid of drugs,” he said.
Once inside, Rodella said deputies found an elaborate surveillance system, which included cameras and a monitor.
Along with drugs and cash, Rodella said, stolen property that included such things as hand and electric tools and vacuum cleaners was found.
Rodella said upon the first sweep of the home, no weapons were discovered.
Four of those apprehended were picked up on outstanding warrants and three of them were released on bond. One failed to post bond and was transported to the county jail in Tierra Amarilla along with those who were charged with drug offenses.
One other person was released because there was insufficient evidence to connect him with any crime. “He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Arnold said. He said those picked up on outstanding warrants could potentially face other charges resulting from the raid.
“This isn’t just a one time show, it’s just the latest,” Rodella said. “We’re not going anywhere. Our battle against drugs continues.”
Rodella added that he could accomplish more if he had more resources.
“As sheriff of Rio Arriba County, I believe given additional resources we could do an incredible job of getting more off the streets,” he said.