Tip leads DEA to 2200-gram heroin bust at Anchorage port
Two men are accused in a drug trafficking scheme after a law enforcement operation thwarted more than 2200 grams of heroin from hitting the streets of Anchorage.
Alaska State Troopers received a tip last Friday of a suspicious vehicle being shipped from Southern California to Anchorage. The vehicle, a 2008 Chevy Tahoe, was being shipped from Thermal, California, which, according to the affidavit filed in the case, is a known source of drug shipments-- specifically to Alaska.
DEA agents responded to the Port of Alaska, formerly known as the Port of Anchorage, and unloaded the vehicle from its shipping container. K-9 Balu-Mocha indicated drugs in the vehicle.
The next afternoon, a search warrant was obtained, and 10 bundles of heroin-- with a total weight of 2236 grams-- was found inside the engine of the Tahoe. Each bundle contained a hard brown substance wrapped in plastic and blue tape -- except one, which was bundled with black tape. The substance field-tested positive for heroin.
A federal search warrant was applied for and granted to install a tracking and alerting device in the vehicle on Sunday.
Tuesday afternoon just before 2, a gray Ford Escort, which is registered to Alfred Carranza, dropped off a Hispanic male, who authorities identified as Jose Rivas-Ortiz Jr., a block from an Anchorage shipping company, according to the narrative in the affidavit. Rivas-Ortiz went inside and paid roughly $3,270 for the delivery of the Tahoe and conducted a visual inspection of the vehicle before accepting delivery, entering the vehicle and driving it from the premises, documents say; the Ford Escort followed.
Both vehicles were driven to the area of Spenard Road and Woodland Drive before the Tahoe was parked on West 36th Avenue near Wyoming Drive. The DEA says the duo made the block, appearing to be engaged in counter-surveillance, monitoring for law enforcement, before leaving the Tahoe behind and leaving the area.
A while later, both men returned to the Tahoe and moved it about a block to the 1700 block of West 36th Avenue, court documents state, where they opened the hood and were seen moving back and forth between the Tahoe, their apartment and the area near the parked Escort.
Rivas-Ortiz put on a pair of latex gloves, then he and Carranza removed the black plastic engine cover -- triggering an alert to the monitoring system the DEA had installed in the vehicle, the affidavit states.
Law enforcement approached, identified themselves and took Rivas-Ortiz into custody without incident. Charging documents state Carranza fled, entered the apartment and locked himself inside, refusing to exit initially. He was taken into custody a short time thereafter without further incident.
According to the affidavit, around 4:10 p.m., Carranza randomly said, "I guess I blew that operation." He was not being questioned at the time.
A federal search warrant was obtained for the residence, where officers recovered a "large quantity of burner phones" and digital scales, several ledger books, drug paraphernalia, a heroin/opioid overdose kit, and multiple MoneyGram and money order receipts, among other items, authorities say.
Both men were charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin.
Their first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
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