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The Anatomy of a Drug Bust
By Jorge Casuso
December 7, 2020 -- The following account of Guadalupe Edwin Zuniga's arrest for narcotics dealing is based on a criminal complaint filed by DEA Special Agent Michael Sier on Thursday in U.S. District Court:
On March 21, 2019, SMPD's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) conducts a search of Zuniga's former Reseda home. They seize approximately 9 ounces of suspected cocaine, approximately 300 pills of suspected alprazolam and $140,537 in cash.
Zuniga is arrested for possession for purposes of sales and child endangerment. No charges are filed.
In September 2020, a DEA source informs investigators that Zuniga "is a cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin trafficker based in Southern California" and agrees to cooperate with the undercover investigation
On October 9, 2020 -- after obtaining a search warrant "to receive phone pings" for the location of Zuniga's cell phone -- SMPD detectives and DEA agents set up surveillance near a residence in North Hollywood.
They witness what appears to be a narcotics transaction. The authorities then follow Zuniga to Van Nuys where they witness a second alleged drug transaction.
Santa Monica detectives witness several other transactions involving Zuniga outside the North Hollywood residence.
On November 14, Zuniga is recorded in a phone call with the DEA confidential source arranging a transaction for "waters," the drug trafficking term for methamphetamine.
Zuniga offers to sell the source 15 pounds of meth and supply another 15 pounds on consignment. A transaction is arranged for November 2 at a Home Depot in Burbank.
The day before the arranged transaction takes place, SMPD conducts surveillance of Zuniga and sees him entering a white Ford Expedition "with two large yellow bags that appear to be heavily weighted."
Zuniga drives with what appears to be "a wife and child" to the North Hollywood residence where the other transactions had taken place. When Zuniga returns to the vehicle, he no longer has the weighted bags.
On December 2 -- the date arranged for the transaction with the confidential source -- DEA agent Sier and Santa Monica police set up to conduct an undercover purchase.
After obtaining "a large blue bag" from the trunk of a Mercedes parked at the North Hollywood residence, Zuniga drives to the Home Depot.
He arrives at the parking lot and texts the confidential source "to meet him on foot one block south of the Home Depot."
When the source asks to meet in the parking lot, Zuniga became suspicious and stops replying. He takes the 5 Freeway and heads north to the North Hollywood home.
He was "driving erratically in a manner consistent with counter-surveillance or with Zuniga having 'burned' our surveillance."
Officers stop Zuniga when he exits the freeway and obtain the big blue bag from the Expedition.
The bag contains "what appeared to be thirty pounds of methamphetamine that was tightly wrapped in plastic wrap." The following day police would determine it weighed 16 pounds.
During a search of Zuniga's office in the North Hollywood residence, agents find a safe that contains approximately 50 grams of what appears to be powder cocaine and an unloaded firearm adjacent to a loaded magazine.
On December 3, Zuniga is transferred to DEA/US Marshals custody.
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