BY Recent stories
$$ NewsLibrary Archives search for
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Huge Meth Ring Was Well-Run
By T.J. Wilham
Copyright © 2009 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
Making their rounds in company vans, members of the Aispuro drug trafficking organization dealt Mexican meth to plumbers, teenagers and street pushers.
Police say the group moved more than $200,000 or 25 pounds of methamphetamine each week in the Albuquerque area and supplied the drug to hundreds. It was a well-run organization with stash houses, job descriptions for its members, a fleet of transport cars with hidden compartments, a secret code and two auto detailing shops it used to launder money.
Police say the organization formed a partnership with the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, which shipped the Mexican-made drugs to California, then to Albuquerque.
It accounted for the majority of the meth on Albuquerque streets and was one of the largest in the state, police say.
The FBI and the New Mexico Region 1 Narcotics Task Force watched members of the organization for more than 18 months. Agents tapped the organization's cell phones, planted three informants in the operation, cracked their code, conducted 24-hour surveillance and posed as garbage collectors so they could go through trash.
The cat-and-mouse game came to an end last month when more than 100 law enforcement officers from 11 federal state and local agencies raided the organization's homes and businesses, seizing cars, weapons, drugs and cash. They indicted the alleged ringleader, Javier Aispuro, a Mexican national here illegally, and six of his top aides on federal drug trafficking charges. About a dozen others also face federal indictments, including Aispuro's girlfriend Yessenia Diaz.
Police arrested Aispuro with Diaz in their van on their way to California hours before the raid. About $80,000 in cash was found in their van.
"They were the most organized group I have worked," said one of the lead undercover agents assigned to the investigation. "They were good at their trade. After a while, this was much more than about making a case. It was about seriously making an impact on how much meth was on the streets."
Authorities said very little about the investigation after the Dec. 16 raid. About 30 search warrants were sealed until recently, when a federal judge made them available.
The warrants consist of hundreds of pages detailing members' involvement in the organization and how law enforcement was able to crack one of the largest drug trafficking organizations in the Albuquerque area.
"This organization took a lot of resources to bring down," said a lieutenant with the Region 1 Narcotics Task Force. "Hundreds of officers and dozens of agencies were involved in 24-hour surveillance, wiretaps ... Many officers put their lives on hold for 18 months to make this happen."
Agents learned of the organization after arresting several low-level dealers.
The group was tight and well-organized. Only a few knew Aispuro's real name or where he lived. He was simply called "Javier." After he was taken into custody, police were able to determine that his birth name is Jaime Zamoran-Gonzalez.
Agents obtained warrants to conduct wiretaps on cell phones belonging to Aispuro. At first the conversations made little sense, but agents quickly figured out the code. "Little ones," "big ones," "little girls," "big girls," "plastics" and "hands" were all words for drugs. "Papers" meant money. "Black ones" always stood for guns. Most of the time the members talked in Spanish.
Agents intercepted hundreds of phone calls in which Aispuro's employees arranged to have money laundered and then sent to Mexico, had meth shipped from a supplier in California to Albuquerque and took orders from low-level Albuquerque dealers.
On at least two occasions, when agents intercepted phone calls that shipments of money were leaving California, they had the vehicles followed and stopped for minor traffic violations. Both times, agents found more than $90,000 of cash hidden in compartments.
In addition, three informants bought drugs from Aispuro's organization using federal money.
Agents combing through Aispuro's garbage found several buckets labeled MSM — Methylsulfonylmethane — a white powder commonly mixed with meth.
While listening in on phone conversations, investigators learned that much of the business operated out of two auto detailing businesses — Complete Mobile Detail in Albuquerque and Amazing Details & Audio in Rio Rancho. Everyone in the organization called the businesses "the shop."
Drugs were bought and sold at the businesses, and company vans were used to make deliveries. The businesses were also used to launder drug money, investigators said.
The owners of Amazing Details, Adam and Anjoli Anderson, had five employees, four children and five houses, one of which was bought for $459,000 last May.
Investigators said Adam Anderson used two company vans, marked "Complete Mobile Detail," to distribute the drugs. He would drive the van to various locations around Albuquerque. Once parked, customers would pull up to the van and buy drugs.
On one occasion, agents watched as a plumber's truck pulled up next to the van at an auto accessories business on Candelaria, where the driver of the truck appeared to buy drugs. On the same day, the van parked at the Taylor Ranch Community Center, where Anderson met two boys — who investigators said appeared to be 13 and 14 years old — in the playground. Agents believe Anderson sold meth to both boys.
"As we followed them from deal to deal to deal, we saw a wide spectrum of users in the Albuquerque metro area," the undercover agent said. "From the affluent to the street users, we saw it all."
Drugs and daily life
Some of the conversations agents intercepted seemed to lay out the everyday life of a meth family.
During one call with her husband, Anjoli Anderson became frustrated because she had given her aunt some drugs for free, but the aunt wanted more. Investigators say Anjoli told her aunt "the drugs were not hers to give away and that the guy who the drugs belonged to (Aispuro) has a wife and kids to take care of."
Adam Anderson told his wife to have her aunt go to bed and when she woke up, to give her more meth so that it would relieve the stress the aunt was putting on her.
In another phone call, Adam Anderson arranges for a woman to clean his house in exchange for meth. And in another, he conducts a deal while buying wood at a local home improvement store.
Members of the organization didn't fit the stereotype for drug dealers.
They lived in middle-class homes and had kids in school. They drove minivans, Chevrolet Malibus and Honda Civics, but still had higher-end cars such as Lexuses and Mercedes.
"That was their tactic," the undercover agent said. "They didn't want to draw attention to themselves. They lived in homes not far from where (cops) lived.
"When I interviewed (Aispuro) after his arrest, his response was, 'I didn't hurt anyone. That's what I had to do to make it.' They viewed this as their primary source of income."
The federal search warrant names 16 people allegedly involved in the organization. Only eight so far have been indicted, but police say more charges are expected.
Police say things are quieter on the streets since the raids, but they also say other organizations like Aispuro's are still pushing Mexican meth in the state. The reason: Meth is the drug of choice in New Mexico. As long as the demand is high, people will try to profit.
"Clearly, after these arrests, there has been significant impact on the flow of meth coming into the city, absolutely," said Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, who had more than a dozen deputies assigned to the investigation. "Unfortunately, I have been at this long enough to know that there is going to be somebody right behind them to fill the void."