12 arrested, $2.5M in drugs seized in sting


A massive 18-month investigation called "Operation Rose Bud" has culminated in arrests and the seizure of $2.5 million worth of drugs.

Federal agents and Pasadena police personnel rounded up more than a dozen suspected members of a street gang who authorities believe is part of a multi-million-dollar drug distribution operation.

"Many of the arrests are active gang members or associates of a Pasadena Latino gang known as the Varrio Pasadena Rifa, VPR," said Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez. "These VPR gang members are directly responsible for drug trades in Pasadena."

Federal and local authorities say they got a tip in 2012 that drugs were pouring into the San Gabriel Valley and being packaged and sold on the street for millions. They say undercover agents targeted the leaders of the network and took it down.

"The intelligence was the starting point towards the identification of a large-scale narcotics distribution network actively supplying methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin into the San Gabriel and Lancaster regions," said Sanchez. "The network hierarchy included deliveries into the United States from the Sinaloa cartel associates in Mexico, and then broken into two parts into street-level sellers."

Federal authorities say in all 24 people have been charged with drug trafficking offenses in connection with the drug operation. Some of them were already in prison when the arrests happened.

Investigators say the mastermind behind the drug-pushing business lives in Lancaster and is still at large.

"At this point we believe he was the main individual in charge of getting those drugs from Mexico up here to the United States," said Sarah Pullen, a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

This all comes just two days after another major drug bust, the FBI announced the arrest of the leadership of the MS-13 street gang in Los Angeles. Agents say the gang operated a lucrative drug-selling operation until undercover agents infiltrated the hierarchy and helped disband it.

"This gang is very similar," said Pullen. "They were involved in distributing street sale, street level quantities of drugs. But they were also involved in an organization based up in the Antelope Valley that was paying taxes to the Mexican Mafia."

Federal investigators say they have every confidence they will arrest the mastermind behind the drug operation very soon.

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