Feds Take Down South Bay Drug Ring, Arrest 18 Suspects

Federal authorities busted an alleged high-ranking drug dealer accused of pumping millions of dollars of illicit narcotics into Silicon Valley's black market.

San Jose’s Esdras Avila Carrillo, known as “Blanco,” tried to wrestle a cop’s gun away during before his arrest this week with 17 others accused of running a major Mexican drug cartel distribution ring in Santa Clara County.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents say they took down a meth lab called “The Store” and seized massive amounts of heroin, cocaine, concentrated cannabis, marijuana, weapons and laundered money.

The arrests wrapped up an elaborate two-year federal investigation dubbed “Operation Five Degrees,” a reference to the network that, authorities say, led them from small-time dealers to kingpins pushing millions of dollars of weight from Mexico to the Bay Area through the South Bay and peninsula.

“Mexican cartels are using Silicon Valley as a major artery for the flow of illegal drugs,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement vowing to track, arrest and prosecute suspected drug dealers. “Prosecutors in my office and law enforcement agents are working closely together to cut off this toxic flood.”

The feds launched the investigation after the 2012 arrest of a low-level dealer, a case that uncovered evidence of a broader distribution structure that led to “Blanco” and the Elk Grove meth lab, “The Store,” churning out millions of dollars a month of the stuff.

Leading up to this week’s takedown, officers say they found more than 45 pounds of meth, cocaine and heroin—just about $500,000 worth—during traffic stops and other searches.

The suspects are due in court this week on charges that could land many of them decades behind bars.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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