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News Release

Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Media Relations

LAPD Narcotic Detectives Disrupt Operation of Methamphetamine Laboratory

LOS ANGELES - On Friday, March 23, 2001, detectives assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department's Clandestine Lab Squad received information of an illicit methamphetamine laboratory at a residence located at the 5400 block of Fallbrook Avenue, West Los Angeles. Detectives responded to the location and established a surveillance of the single-family dwelling. They observed activities consistent with a pill-crushing operation. This process involves the use of highly volatile solvents that have been known to explode and cause fires.

During this surveillance, a suspect was followed from the West Valley residence to the Santa Paula Airport, and was observed entering a hanger at 350 Santa Maria Street, Unit F, in the City of Santa Paula. Detectives observed several suspects go in and out of the hanger. These suspects appeared to be involved in the manufacturing of methamphentamines.

Based on the information obtained by the detectives, a search warrant was prepared and signed by a magistrate at 10:15pm, that same day.

As detectives were planning the execution of the warrants, five suspects exited the hanger and left the location. Santa Paula Police was notified, and their assistance was obtained in detaining the suspects.

On March 24, 2001, at 1:15am, the search warrants were served at both locations. Two suspects were arrested at the Santa Paula hanger, where detectives discovered a fully operational illegal methamphetamine laboratory.

At the Fallbrook residence, detectives discovered a pseudoephedrine pill-crushing operation with approximately 28 pounds of ephedrine and 60 gallons of solution; enough to produce 100 pounds of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of two million dollars. Two additional suspects were taken in custody at the Fallbrook location.

All nine suspects arrested (8 adults and one juvenile) were booked at Van Nuys Jail for 11379 H&S, Manufacturing Methamphetamine. Bail on the adults was set at $500,000 each, and the juvenile is being held without bail.

Arrested at the 5400 block of Fallbrook were Daniel Espinoza, 21 years of age, and Alejandro Nepita, 29 years of age.

Also seized at the 5400 block of Fallbrook were:
28 pounds of pseudoephedrine;
60 gallons for liquid pseudophedrine;

Miscellaneous laboratory equipment;
One automatic handgun;
$2,000 in U.S. Currency

Detained by the Santa Paula Police Department and arrested at the Santa Paula Airport hanger were:

John Brooks, 43 years of age;
Andy Batey, 35 years of age;
Juan Jimenez, 18 years of age;
Uriel Ochoa, 30 years of age;
Sergio Estrada, 27 years of age;
Fauto Villanueva, 26 years of age; and
A 17 year-old male juvenile

Seized at the Santa Paula Airport hanger were:
150 gallons of methamphetamine solution;
1/4 pound of methamphetamine;
Five, 22-liter cooking set-ups;

Miscellaneous laboratory equipment and chemicals; and12 firearms (nine rifles and 3 handguns).

Santa Paula Police Department and Ventura County Sheriffs assisted LAPD detectives in this operation. Detectives assigned to Narcotics Division, Illicit Lab Squad, are conducting the investigation.

This press release was prepared by Officer Hayley Purece, Media Relations Section, 213-485-3586.