Local residents charged in drug trafficking operation
by Jonathan Partridge | Patterson Irrigator
May 31, 2012 | 6365 views | 6 6 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Four Patterson-area residents were charged in an indictment last week involving a drug trafficking ring with ties to both the Central Valley and the Bay Area, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced Wednesday, May 30.

Jason Siegfried, 28; Robert Kennedy, 25; and Nicholas Ojeda, 32, all of Patterson, and Derek Winters, 30, of the developing community of Diablo Grande were among 32 suspects charged in the matter.

The eight-count indictment alleges that owners of Grower’s Choice Hydroponics stores in Tracy and Hayward furnished lighting and growing equipment used in marijuana grow houses in warehouses and homes, including at least two residences in west Patterson.

Store owners Steven Ortega Sr. of Byron and Steven Ortega Jr. of Discovery Bay allegedly received initial capital and a share of the harvested marijuana from growers in exchange for the equipment, and laundered proceeds from pot sales through their business. After the pot was harvested, it was sold in large quantities, often to out-of-state drug traffickers, according to the U.S. District Attorney's Office.

“We will continue to target sophisticated interstate drug trafficking organizations that protect their operations with firearms,” Wagner said. “The use of legitimate businesses to facilitate marijuana cultivation and launder the proceeds of trafficking is a classic feature of such organizations.”

All the Patterson suspects were charged with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, or intend to distribute marijuana and are subject to criminal forfeiture. Kennedy and Ojeda, who were both issued bench warrants, also face charges of manufacturing marijuana. Winters is suspected of being involved in the money laundering scheme, according to a criminal complaint filed by the DEA. He was also involved in operating a grow house in Tracy, the complaint alleged.

Siegfried was identified as a supplier of cloned marijuana plants for Ortega Jr. following intercepted phone calls in January, in which Ortega Jr. allegedly wanted to buy 300 marijuana saplings from him, according to the DEA’s affidavit.

Either Ojeda or Kennedy were believed to be renting out a home on the 1300 block of Thoroughbred Street that is believed to be a marijuana grow house, the affidavit stated. That affidavit said Winters’ brother — who is not named in the indictment but who informants say is a co-leader of the trafficking ring — owned the house, which used about three kilowatts of electricity per hour, or three times the normal usage.

The DEA reported listening in on calls between Kennedy and other members of the trafficking ring regarding drug cultivation, and they think Ojeda is a resident in the house.

The indictment comes after the federal Drug Enforcement Administration arrested 19 people during the search of several properties on May 16 and 17.

At that time, DEA officials reportedly found 14 marijuana-growing setups in San Joaquin and several Bay Area counties and confiscated 3,606 plants, 96 pounds of processed marijuana valued at $1 million, 36 firearms, a 37mm grenade launcher, eight vehicles, five motorcycles, five boats and about $400,000 in cash.

Calls intercepted on wiretaps during the investigation showed that members of the organization used firearms to protect the marijuana grow houses, according to the District Attorney’s office. Agents also found 17 electrical bypasses used by marijuana cultivators to steal electricity, as grow houses require lots of electricity to operate, according to the District Attorney.

In addition to the Thoroughbred Street address, investigators suspect that a home on the 200 block of Tissot Way in Patterson was a grow house operated by suspected 23-year-old drug trafficking ring member Joey Figlia of Discovery Bay.

On April 26, the DEA reported wiretapping a call between Figlia and a Growers Choice employee who lives on Tissot Way, in which the employee expressed nervousness about police being in the area, fearing they may “have caught a whiff, and they’re driving around or something.” The employee suggested that Figlia change filters inside the house, probably to disguise the odor of marijuana, according to the DEA’s affidavit.

Turlock Irrigation District records indicated the unoccupied Tissot Way home was using about 2 kilowatts per hour as of May 1, about one and a half to two times the normal use, the affidavit stated. In 2011, it was using three to five times the normal use, the affidavit indicated.

Investigators also indicated in the affidavit that they planned to search Winters’ home on the 9300 block of Morton Davis Drive.

The case against the alleged traffickers is the product of an extensive investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and numerous other agencies in Northern California including the San Leandro Police Department and the METRO Task Force.

Though the statutory penalty for the charge is 10 years to life in prison, the actual sentences, if convicted, will be determined at the discretion of the court in accordance with sentencing guidelines.

• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187, ext. 26, or jonathan@pattersonirrigator.com.

Comments
(6)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
buy_american
|
June 01, 2012
Now they just need to start cracking down on all the drug dealers and buyers that are hanging out at the river on a daily basis. Especially at the beginning of the month and end of the week. When you see that much traffic going to and from it’s only obvious what’s going on. Police want to set-up a sting operation, that’s the perfect place.
nodoubt
|
May 31, 2012
Amen! Patterson has become a haven for this kind of lawless activity. I am sick of living in a town that is run by drug dealing thugs. This is our town and the citizens need to take it back!

One other note....the Hydroponic stores need to be shut down.....they are nothing but a front for illegal pot growers.

DEA....you rock!

malcolmkyle
|
June 01, 2012
Most of us know that individuals who use illegal drugs are going to get high - no matter what, so why do you not prefer they acquire them in stores that check IDs and pay taxes? Even if we could afford to put Narcs on every single corner, at least half of them would soon become dealers themselves. Gifting the market in narcotics to ruthless criminals, foreign terrorists and corrupt law enforcement officials is seriously compromising our future.

Why do you wish to continue with a policy that has proven itself to be a poison in the veins of our once so proud & free nation? Even if you cannot bear the thought of people using drugs, there is absolutely nothing you, or any government, can do to stop them. We have spent 40 years and trillions of dollars on this dangerous farce; Prohibition will not suddenly and miraculously start showing different results. Do you actually believe you may personally have something to lose If we were to begin basing our drug policy on science & logic instead of ignorance, hate and lies?

Maybe you're a police officer, a prison guard or a local/national politician. Possibly you're scared of losing employment, overtime-pay, the many kick-backs and those regular fat bribes. But what good will any of that do you once our society has followed Mexico over the dystopian abyss of dismembered bodies, vats of acid and marauding thugs carrying gold-plated AK-47s with leopard-skinned gunstocks?

Kindly allow us to forgo the next level of your sycophantic prohibition-engendered mayhem.

Prohibition Prevents Regulation : Legalize, Regulate and Tax!
nodoubt
|
June 01, 2012
What's next.....should we legalize crack too?

I am not a police officer, prison guard or local politician, just a working class citizen with an interest in keeping as many "drug entepenuers", as possible, out of the city that I am trying to raise a family in.

It does not exactly sound like the owners of the hydroponics stores, involved in this sting, were interested in checking any ones ids, least of all paying taxes.

How about we leave the "marajuana distribution" to the pharmacies? That is the ultimate meaning of regulate, legalize and tax!

S.A.Y.L.
|
June 01, 2012
I dunno malcolmkyle legalization isnt working out so well. These guys were all growing for a so called legal company. They were stealing power, destroying property they didnt own and were using guns and pit bulls for protection all while living on a street full of families and kids(except the guy with the white hummer who liked hanging out at the grow house) Not exactly the sort of people or business you want or need in your neighbor hood.
Johneverymann
|
July 22, 2012
Patterson sucks. I wouldn't stop in Patterson to take a dump. Nothing but Mexican restaurants and car washes. Drug dealers don't run Patterson. They stop by once a week to fill their reservoirs, Then head back to civilization. You live at a truck stop bruh. With a population of 20k people. None of the weed that`s grown in Patterson is actually sold in Patterson. These guys weren't selling dime bags to middle schoolers. You don`t know what you`re talking about. Please stop typing nonsense.


We encourage your online comments in this public forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a forum for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Readers may report such inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at news@pattersonirrigator.com.