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Suspected illegal immigrants part of huge heroin bust

A traffic stop Monday led to the seizure of 4 pounds of heroin valued at approximately $500,000, according to police.

Three Charlotte men were booked into Gaston County Jail under multi-million dollar bonds on charges of trafficking heroin.

The arrests came after a North Carolina highway patrolman pulled over a vehicle because he said the driver was following too closely on the interstate.

Gerardo Beltran Rodriquez was behind the wheel of the Chevrolet Malibu when Trooper W.R. Blanton pulled over the car.

Blanton said he talked with the men before initiating a search of the vehicle.

“One thing led to another. I got suspicious and got permission to search the car,” he said.

Blanton said his suspicions were substantiated when he uncovered 4 pounds of heroin in the vehicle, worth approximately $500,000.

The stop was made on I-85 North around milemarker 10, which is U.S. 74, near the Gaston/Cleveland county line.

Other officers on the scene assisted Blanton in the search and found the heroin hidden in the car’s spare tire, said Blanton.

Rodriquez, 27, of 208 Tyvola Drive, was charged with two counts of heroin trafficking and one count of conspiring to traffic cocaine.

The serious charges could carry a maximum sentence of nearly 15 years in prison, according to District Court Judge Thomas Taylor.

Rodriquez made a first appearance in court Tuesday afternoon where Taylor upheld the man’s $2.5 million bond.

Rodriquez’ two passengers were also charged and brought before Taylor in court.

Adolfo Guzman Lopez, 31, of 208 Tyvola Drive, and Irving Eduardo Rodriquez-Munguia, 20, of 6514 Dupont Drive, each face the same charges as Rodriquez.

Rodriquez-Munguia was assigned a $2.5 million bond, and Lopez is being held under a $2 million bond.

A translator was used to help the trio communicate with Taylor during a video arraignment Tuesday. Video arraignments allow jailors to keep inmates down in the jail to more quickly expedite first appearances in District Court.

Taylor assigned each man a public defender.

Gaston County Assistant District Attorney Kelvin Atkinson set probable cause hearings for each of the men for Aug. 13.

Initially there was some question about the men’s immigration. That matter was not addressed in court, and Blanton said he doesn’t handle immigration concerns.

According to Blanton, it’s not every day that such a big heroin bust is made on the interstate, though he recalled an arrest involving 3 pounds of heroin being made earlier this year in Asheville.

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Officers Make Sweep Of Calif. Community

Two weeks ago, it was San Bernardino.

This time, it was Yucaipa‘s turn to be targeted for a sweep by area law enforcement.

“Yucaipa has had problems in the past with the white supremacist gangs,” said sheriff‘s Sgt. Paul Morrison. “And now we’re seeing heroin making a comeback in greater numbers.”

As the 100 peace officers with the San Bernardino Movement Against Street Hoodlums prepared to go out into Yucaipa’s streets on Friday to search for people with warrants, drugs and gang affiliations, they chatted about their lives, sports and what they did on their last day off.

One deputy who wanted to remain anonymous said that one of the ways he prepares to deal with possibly volatile situations is by working out at the gym and keeping fit.

That philosophy proved to be the mind-set during the Yucaipa sweep.

“This one individual always runs from us when he sees us coming,” Morrison said. “These deputies are in great shape and are usually able to get the person that’s trying to flee from them.”

Participating in Friday’s Yucaipa sweep were, the Fontana, Upland, Montclair, San Bernardino, Redlands and Barstow police departments, the California Highway Patrol, the state Parole Department, the county Probation, San Bernardino County and Riverside County sheriff’s departments and the District Attorney’s office.

More than 50 people were arrested. The sweeps occur biweekly.

“It’s an impressive sight when you see patrol cars from all over the county at every corner with its red and blue lights on making contact with people,” Morrison said. “There are many good, good people here that work hard at making a living, but then there’s those that need extra attention and that’s where the sweeps come in to play.”

It’s not over after the arrest is made.

Officers take the people arrested to a command center where their journey through the justice system begins, or in some cases continues.

“We do all the processing here by doing an in-the-field inmate intake before transporting them to jail,” said sheriff’s Detective Grant Ward. “We run their fingerprints and do a records check as well as having a nurse draw blood for evidence of drug use.”

The tools for an operation of this size make the sweep work like a well-oiled machine, Ward said.

“With technology comes progression,” Ward said. “We use a live-scan type of instrument that sends the person’s fingerprint right to the computer it’s paired to.”

Within minutes, if someone has a criminal record, it comes up from local, state or even federal databases.

The technology is similar to the biometrics and identification systems that the armed forces have been using for years during combat operations to identify enemy combatants.

After attempts to hide one’s identity by changing facial features and removing fingerprints by abrasive means, the military uses smart technology to match an iris scan, a photograph and a fingerprint to come up with the identity of the person scanned.

“We have all kinds of technology at our fingertips to make it easier to identify the person in question,” Ward said. “Biometrics is the key to identifying someone and denying the anonymity desired by people that want to stay out of jail.”

Once suspects are picked up in the sweep, processed and identified, they wait to be transferred to a jail assigned to the sweep.

“It takes quite a bit of logistics for an operation of this magnitude to work this smoothly,” Morrison said. “Without agencies working together in unison and the technology used, we couldn’t effectively clean up the streets to make the citizens of San Bernardino County safe.”

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Waynesboro man deemed ‘sexually violent predator,’ sentencing postponed

CHAMBERSBURG – Aaron Keith Helman wept with his head in his hands this morning after a Franklin County judge determined that he will be branded a sexually violent predator for the rest of his life.

“I’m not a pedophile,” Helman said several times while his attorney, Matthew Stewart, was explaining the strict Megan’s Law reporting guidelines he’ll have to follow. “I’m not a pervert.”

 

Helman, 31, Waynesboro, will be required to register with Pennsylvania State Police and be photographed every 90 days after his release from jail. He is also subject to community notifications. Whenever he moves to a new neighborhood, law enforcement will distribute fliers featuring his photo, address and offense.

 

He was arrested August 20 for having sex with a 15-year-old girl in an alley. A patrolling Waynesboro Police officer spotted Helman running naked through an alley in the 200 block of Park Street. The officer found Helman’s clothes and the girl’s purse left behind.

 

Today’s court proceedings began at 10 a.m. and were scheduled to include Helman’s sentencing hearing, but Judge Richard Walsh decided at noon that there wasn’t enough time. Sentencing is planned for 9 a.m. Wednesday. Helman remains at Franklin County Jail in the meantime.

 

According to court records, Helman pleaded guilty March 2 to felonies statutory sexual assault and unlawful contact with a minor.

 

He was also charged with a more serious felony offense, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (IDSI) with a child, as well as misdemeanor drug and drug paraphernalia possession. Those charges were not pursued as part of his plea agreement.

 

Assistant District Attorney Lauren Sulcove said the agreement included a plead-to sentence of between 15 and 30 months in state prison.

 

At the start, it appeared Monday’s hearing would not happen at all as planned. Stewart told the judge that Helman wanted to withdraw his guilty plea and take the case to trial.

 

Sulcove said she was prepared to go to trial, and pointed out that the terms of Helman’s plea agreement would be void if he changed his plea to not guilty.

 

“Today is it. This offer has been on the table for three months,” she said. “Either he proceeds to sentencing today or it is withdrawn.” Walsh asked Sulcove to explain the potential sentence Helman could face if he is convicted.

 

She said the IDSI charge carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. Statutory sexual assault carries a maximum of 10 years, and the drug charges amount to as much as a year and 30 days of incarceration.

 

When she was finished, Helman started to cry and interrupted what the judge had started to say.

 

“I’ll take the plea bargain,” Helman said. “I’ll take it.”

 

Walsh called for a short break so Stewart and Helman could talk privately. When they came back, Helman stated that he did not want to withdraw his guilty plea. The hearing then turned to whether Helman should be designated a sexually violent predator (SVP).

 

Herbert Hays of the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB) testified that he evaluated Helman’s case, previous criminal history and other factors. He recommended the SVP designation and suggested that Helman presents a likelihood of re-offending later in his life.

 

According to the Pennsylvania State Police Megan’s Law website, there are four men registered as SVPs out of jail and living in Franklin County. A person with the designation is determined to have a mental abnormality or disorder that makes them prone to engage in predatory sexual behavior.

 

The SOAB evaluates people who have been convicted of sex crimes to assist the court in determining whether they meet the legal criteria of sexually violent predators . The designation is ultimately up to the judge presiding over the case.

 

Helman’s criminal history began when he was 12-years-old, Hays said. His charges over the years include theft and multiple incidents of aggravated assault, including the assault of a police officer for which he was charged as an adult at the age of 16.

 

He has also been in and out of prison for numerous probation and parole violations. None of Helman’s other convictions involved sexual crimes, but “we don’t know whether he’s had other victims or not,” Hays said.

 

He concluded that Helman exhibits an anti-social personality disorder, a lifetime condition for which there is no cure. Hays said the disorder makes Helman a risk for committing another sexual crime in the future.

 

“This is someone who has a blatant disregard for the rights of others,” Hays said. “He’s going to do what he wants, when he wants to do it with no regard for other people.”

 

Helman testified in his own defense, acknowledging that he had sex with the girl, but claiming that he did not know her age at the time.

 

“I had no clue,” he said. “I didn’t even know she was 15-years-old until I was in my jail cell.”

 

He described meeting the girl, a few hours before they had sex, while he was walking to a bar in Waynesboro. He said she asked for his phone number and sent him a text message later, inviting him to visit her home where she lived with her parents.

 

Helman said he went there and met members of the girl’s family. He recalled her asking her mother’s permission to walk their dog around the block with him. It was about midnight when the girl’s mother sent them to the store to buy her cigarettes.

 

On the walk back, the girl suggested they go into the alley where the sexual encounter happened, Helman said.


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Voter Fraud Allegations in Mayoral Election Rock New Mexico City

There is perhaps no other city in the country like Sunland Park, N.M.

The dusty border town minutes from El Paso, Texas, has been called “a city in chaos” by the state auditor, because a slew of public officials are facing felony charges that they ran City Hall like a personal piggy bank, tried to steal an election in order to remain in power and ruled the 14,000 residents through intimidation and fear.

The state is now moving to take over financial oversight of the city, as the council scrambles to try and name a new mayor.

The explosive case even involves Mexican prostitutes, strippers and an undercover video of a mayoral candidate getting a lap dance from a topless woman. The video allegedly was used to try to force him to drop out of the race.

Authorities say the extortion investigation has revealed widespread voter fraud and public corruption in the small city just south of the Rio Grande.

“It started with extortion charges, and from that it then led us to the voter fraud cases,” says Dona Ana Third Judicial District Attorney Amy Orlando, who is prosecuting the growing case.

So far, her office has charged 12 people, many public officials and city employees, including 28-year-old Mayor-elect Daniel Salinas, who faces dozens of charges in four separate cases. He was barred from taking office, and the city has been without a mayor since the election on March 6.

Salinas and others are charged with extortion over the tape. Prosecutors say the Salinas faction used city money to make the tape and pay for the topless dancer.

“They tried to get me out of the race,” Hernandez said. “I said, well, I’m not going to withdraw from the race. If you want to show it to the media, show it. I am not going to withdraw. That’s extortion.”

He says despite the salacious video, most of the people in Sunland Park support him because “they knew it was a set-up. They knew we’re human. I felt it was a very cowardly act.”

Prosecutors are also investigating about 170 votes that they believe are fraudulent, including the ballots of residents of nearby El Paso who illegally voted in Sunland Park.

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Slay suspect dead in cell

Eric Snow

The apparent jail-cell suicide yesterday of a white supremacist awaiting trial for the vicious baseball-bat bludgeoning of two homeless men brought solace to friends of one of his victims.

“He was an absolute animal,” Peg Hayes, 51, of Carver said of Eric Snow, who with his pal James Winquist was arrested in 2007 for murder. “I’m glad he’s gone.”

After years of appeals, Snow and Winquist were due to stand trial in May for the 2005 murders of William Chrapan, 44, and David Lyons, 46, who were both beaten to death in Hingham’s Bare Cove Park.

Prosecutors said Snow, whose nickname “Killa” was inked on his neck, and Winquist, whose forearm is tattooed with “I Hate You” and “SS,” met in jail and bragged about belonging to the Brotherhood of Blood, an Aryan gang of former and current inmates.

After bashing their victims’ skulls, the pair allegedly severed one of Chrapan’s hands, buried it and then dug it up and showed it off at a party at Winquist’s Nazi-flag-decorated basement apartment — a sadistic deed that ultimately led cops to them, prosecutors alleged.

“I don’t know how people like that are given the dignity of a trial,” said Hayes, a lifelong friend of Lyons. “They’re evil to the core.”

Trent Oakley, 54, another friend of Lyons, said he didn’t feel deprived not seeing Snow face justice: “I am just glad he is not still breathing. I am glad he didn’t get away with it.”

But Snow’s attorney, Gerald T. Fitzgerald, called the suicide “ a real shame,” adding, “He did not commit the murder he is accused of … He has been held in isolation for four and a half years for no justification … They broke him. I don’t want anybody to interpret this as an act of a guilty mind.”

Snow, 30, of Bridgewater was found alone and not breathing in his cell at Plymouth County Correctional Facility — the same jail housing notorious mobster James “Whitey” Bulger — by deputies delivering breakfast at 6 a.m. yesterday, authorities said.

“He had a bag over his head,” said Plymouth Assistant District Attorney Bridget Norton Middleton. “No foul play is suspected.”


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