Sheriff’s undercover drug operation nets 65 arrests in Ramona and Poway
By Karen Brainard
Operation Mountain Shadow, a nearly year-long undercover drug sting in Ramona and Poway, culminated Tuesday, Sept. 10, with 65 people taken into custody, about 80 percent of them from Ramona, more arrests expected, and drugs and illegal firearms seized, law enforcement officials announced.
“These aren’t low level drug dealers,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said at a press conference Tuesday at the Sheriff’s Poway station.
Between 6 a.m. and noon that day, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other partner agencies served 12 search warrants — 9 in Ramona and three in Poway, officials reported.
Evidence seized included 14 pounds of heroin, 56 pounds of cocaine, 93 pounds of methamphetamine, five pounds of prescription pills, 30 grams of marijuana, 76 firearms, one live grenade, and $230,000 in cash, according to the Sheriff’s Department. The drugs have a street value of $2.1 million, reported authorities.
Firearms included AK-47 assault rifles and AR-15 assault rifles.
“The majority of these weapons came out of Ramona,” said Lt. James Bovet of the Sheriff’s Ramona substation.
Those arrested face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled susbstance and could face other state charges, said the Sheriff’s Department. Sentencing, depending on criminal background, could be as much as 25 years in prison.
Sheriff’s Capt. Bill Donahue described those arrested in Ramona as an “older, more experienced group of suspects that have significant priors,” while the suspects in Poway were a younger demographic selling narcotics.
Bovet told the Sentinel that some of those arrested have been selling drugs for 20 years.
Bill Sherman, DEA special agent in charge, said many arrested were more than drug traffickers, and the operation has taken a lot of dangerous criminals off the street.
“Poway and Ramona are definitely a safer place today,” he said.
Operation Mountain Shadow was launched in October 2012 in response to numerous citizen complaints, said the Sheriff’s Department. Dumanis said they saw a spike in crime in Poway and Ramona that was tied to heroin and methamphetamine trafficking.
“We will track you down and will take your drug operation down link by link,” Dumanis said.
During the crackdown, under-cover Sheriff’s deputies and DEA agents conducted “buy-walk” operations, purchasing meth, heroin, cocaine and firearms from suspects, the Sheriff’s department reported.
Accidental overdoses by heroin users, ages 20 to 29, had risen, the district attorney said, with youths who abused prescription drugs often turning to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get.
Bovet said that many believe because Ramona is a semi-rural area “they think they can get away with it, and they can’t.”
Child Protective Services took in children at three of the residences in Ramona where search warrants were served Tuesday through the Drug Endangered Children’s program, Bovet said. Caregivers of those children could face child abuse charges, according to the lieutenant.
Approximately 150 Sheriff’s deputies and federal agents partnered in Operation Mountain Shadow. In addition to the Sheriff’s Department, other agencies included DEA Violent Trafficking Team; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; Regional Auto Theft Task Force; San Diego County District Attorney’s Office; U.S. Attorney’s Office; U.S. Border Patrol; Narcotic Task Force; and FBI Violent Gang Task Force.
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