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Javier's Crew, Mexican heroin ring, busted in Twin Cities

From left to right, top to bottom: Juan Acuna-Hernandez, Ricardo Santana-Marin, Alberto Villa-Barrera; Walter Aviles-Avila, Isay Perez-Cruz, Genaro Pulido-Romero
From left to right, top to bottom: Juan Acuna-Hernandez, Ricardo Santana-Marin, Alberto Villa-Barrera; Walter Aviles-Avila, Isay Perez-Cruz, Genaro Pulido-Romero

A Mexican heroin ring led by a one-armed drug dealer was broken up last week by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, according to a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors.

Sheriff's deputy Quincy Grabau began investigating the drug ring in September 2010 after a "confidential reliable informant" reported that a "group of Mexican males," known as "Javier's Crew," were distributing heroin around the metro. The informant identified a "heavy-set, one-armed man, known as 'Javier,'" as the gang's dispatcher.

An undercover cop bought heroin from the crew. Police began surveillance on a house in Brooklyn Center, where "Javier" stayed. Police tracked drug runners to a home in New Hope and tracked "Javier" as he bought cars with his crew at a Maple Grove auction site.

That December, another confidential informant approached Deputy Grabau to report Javier's Crew. He identified "Javier" and another member, known as "Big Head."

In January 2011, police traced the gang's dispatch phone to a new address in Brooklyn Park, and watched as "Big Head" and several other "unidentified Hispanic males" moved furniture into the home.

Searching through the gang's garbage, police found bags of balloons and small squares of plastic bags "commonly used to package narcotics for distribution."

Surveillance continued at the new address. Cops watched as "Javier" visited the home almost every day, though he rarely stayed. Officers determined that "Javier" was living in Columbia Heights. They found "MoneyGrams" and plastic "tear-offs" with cocaine residue on them in his garbage.

Alberto Villa-Barrera, a heavy-set, one-armed drug dealer, according to police
Alberto Villa-Barrera, a heavy-set, one-armed drug dealer, according to police

"Javier" was pulled over by police for a traffic stop that March, and was identified as Alberto Villa-Barrera. Villa-Barrera claimed to be visiting friends in Minneapolis and said he was originally from Washington state. Another confidential informant provided more information about the gang, and helped an undercover officer buy some heroin.

Shortly afterward, the crew left Minneapolis for St. Paul "due to increased law enforcement" efforts against heroin distribution. They abandoned their cellphones and cars.

Last October, however, the gang returned to Minneapolis, according to yet another confidential informant, who turned over information about the gang's new rides, including a Nissan Sentra and a Town and Country van.

The informant bought heroin under the police's supervision in south Minneapolis, and police obtained a court order to track the Sentra. They followed it to a St. Paul address, where "Big Head" arrived in a PT Cruiser.

Another informant reported buying heroin from Javier's Crew since "approximately 2005 or 2006," and identified Villa-Barrera as the group's boss. "Big Head" was number two.

After that informant bought 10.4 grams of heroin, police obtained search warrants for known addresses in Brooklyn Center, St. Paul, Columbia Heights, St. Paul, and New Hope.

At 6225 Bryant Avenue North, in Brooklyn Center, police found Genaro Pulido-Romero, who falsely identified himself as "Raymundo Martinez Diaz." Cops found 8.86 grams of heroin in the bedroom and $880 in Pulido-Romero's wallet.

Officers visited 122 Wayzata Street, in St. Paul, and found two men in the upstairs bedroom, Isay Perez-Cruz and Walter Noel Aviles-Avila, along with 38.3 grams of heroin.

Searching 685 47 1/2 Avenue Northeast, police met Villa-Barrera, "Javier," and found $27,386 in cash.

"Big Head" was busted at 73 East Jessamine Avenue, in St. Paul, and was identified as Ricardo Santana-Marin. An associate, Juan Jose Acuna-Hernandez, was arrested there with $999 in cash, wire transfers, "numerous cell phones," detailed notes related to "narcotics transactions," and a shoebox. There were 54.6 grams of heroin and nearly 2 grams of cocaine at the apartment.

In New Hope, at 7741 62nd Avenue North, apartment six, officers found 59.5 grams of heroin, as well as $16,000 cash. They also found "five 4XL t-shirts in the closet," three of which they'd seen boss Villa-Barrera wearing.

Something tells us Deputy Grabau, the complainant, enjoyed adding that detail about the "heavy-set" drug dealer.

Defendants face first-degree conspiracy to commit controlled substance crime charges.


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