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Chef mistakenly netted in gang sweep

May 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A massive gang sweep last week was hailed as the largest gang takedown in U.S. history. But that wide net also ended in the wrongful arrest of a retired chef who was mistakenly thought to be a drug dealer.Ramon Huerta was leading a quiet retired life in Pico Rivera until last Thursday morning, when his life was turned upside down early Thursday morning.

Huerta was arrested at his Pico Rivera house. He was picked up as part of a sweep of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens street gang Thursday.

"Between 4 and 5, somebody came and banged the door very heavy, very heavy," said Huerta. "So I get up and I opened the door and I said, 'What happened?' They said, 'Come out with your hands up.' So I put my hands up."

Law enforcement authorities believed the 64-year-old man, who used to prepare meals at country clubs, was an alleged heroin dealer.

"They're looking for weapons, they're looking for everything. So they come and beat the house and they make a mess, terrible mess," said Huerta.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, as soon as it was clear that they had the wrong man, the office took immediate action to release him.

"We filed papers with the court, going so far as to drive a dismissal order to a United States magistrate's house to get an immediate signature, which resulted in Mr. Huerta's immediate release from jail on Saturday afternoon," said Thomas Mrozek, U.S. Attorney's Office spokesperson.

"So I lay around. At 4 o'clock the officers come to say, 'Bring all your stuff from your room. Clothes and everything,'" said Huerta. "So I bring everything and they took me to another officer, and they told me, 'You're ready to go.' But I was scared because they didn't give me any paperwork or anything. But anyway, I was out."

"And they called me and I went and picked him up in split second," said Myrna Huerta, Ramon's wife. "The lady, she said, 'I'm sorry because they got the wrong person.'"

So what happens now? Mr. Huerta says he just wants his name cleared and to return to his nice quiet retirement.

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