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Records chart rise of an alleged kingpin

Dante Quiñones' arrests grew more serious over the years
by: L.E. BASKOW, Dante Quiñones was arrested at his North Borthwick Avenue townhouse, just north of Peninsula Park, last Friday.

You can watch Dante Quiñones age on paper.

In court files, district attorney's office records and police reports spanning 15 years, you can almost see him grow from a small-time hood who rarely found himself in much trouble into the man Portland police said, after they arrested him last week, is one of the top drug dealers in the city.

The hows and the whys of his evolution are largely left unexplained. There are gaps in the records, to be sure, indicating that Quiñones either wasn't doing anything illegal or wasn't caught. But what police say is clear is how important Quiñones became.

Street Crimes Unit Sgt. Chris Davis said his officers watched one day early this year as Quiñones, 37, came to the downtown bus mall in his black Mercedes. There seemed to be almost no drugs for sale, Davis said.

'And then he rolled up, made his deliveries, and it was like a light switch went on,' Davis said. 'There was activity all over the place.'

Quiñones would provide his dealers with an ounce of crack at a time, Davis said, a pingpong-size ball enough to break down into 250 individual rocks. He bought powder cocaine, used to make crack, in volumes of about a kilogram a week, Davis said - about 35 ounces.

'There are probably only 10 or 12 other guys like him' in Portland, Davis said.

The document summarizing his jail-intake interview after his Friday arrest was telling.

'Asked how (he) supports himself, he stated, 'It's only obvious, by selling drugs,'' the interviewer wrote on the document. 'I was shocked that (he) admitted this.'

His girlfriend told the interviewer 'she doesn't ask any questions,' according to the document.

Messages for Quiñones seeking comment were left with jail officials Wednesday. Quiñones did not return the messages. His private attorney, David Peters, said he had not yet received discovery materials in the case and could not comment.

Misdemeanors were a start

Where Quiñones seemed to come from didn't much hint at where he might go.

On an application for a court-appointed lawyer in a 1993 misdemeanor case, Quiñones, then 23, noted that he was living with his parents on North Webster Street.

His mother, Donna, was listed as a dispatcher. His father, José, was shown as a welder. He has a sister six years younger, named Rashana.

He had no bank account, no credit cards, no car. Quiñones said on the form that he did not use drugs and that he had last worked three years before, as a janitor at the Oregon Convention Center, making $1,100 a month after taxes.

The case itself wasn't much - a criminal trespass charge filed after, as Quiñones wrote on a court document, 'I went back to the Up Front Bar + Grill after I had been (kicked) out.' Quiñones pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight days in jail and agreed to stay away from the Up Front.

Around that time, Quiñones' life seemed to change. Several months after the Up Front case, he was arrested for assault and for resisting arrest - charges that would bring him a 24-month state prison sentence - and Beaverton police sought him out for allegedly breaking a woman's nose in a fight.

By then, court records show, Quiñones had acquired an alias, 'Toby Jackson,' and he admitted to using marijuana.

The documents also showed that he was born in California, moving with his family to Portland when he was very young. He was enrolled at Portland Community College, according to the document.

Then-Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Frankel noted in sentencing documents that she gave him a lesser sentence on the assault charge than she could have because Quiñones 'exhibited extreme concern for (the) victim.'

Search turns up drugs

After his release from prison, Quiñones found himself in periodic minor trouble - a parole violation, numerous traffic tickets - but little that would qualify as serious.

That, however, didn't last. And it is here that documents begin to portray Quiñones' evolution into a drug kingpin.

On Aug. 6, 1998, at about 11:30 a.m., Portland police officer Curtis Chinn got a radio call about a burgundy 1993 Infinity sedan, asking him to make a traffic stop.

Becky Wooten, then an officer in the Drugs and Vice Division, saw the car run a red light going west on Northeast Killingsworth Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, but noted in her report that she preferred to have a uniformed officer make the stop.

When Chinn pulled the Infinity over, Quiñones had neither a driver's license nor any sort of picture ID. He did have a cast on his leg, which he told police was because he had injured his knee playing basketball.

Chinn found that Quiñones had a suspended license, took him to Northeast Precinct and had the car towed.

At the precinct, Wooten wasn't done with him. A confidential informant had told her Quiñones was dealing drugs and probably would have some on him, she wrote in her report.

Chinn found about a half-ounce of crack 'in the crotch area of the defendant's underpants,' Wooten wrote.

The officers also found $2,845 in cash - 'It's money for my new wheels,' Quiñones told Chinn, according to one report - along with a pager and cell phone. Police charged him with distributing a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance.

In his jail intake interview this time, Quiñones admitted to using cocaine and mentioned he had been laid off from Cascade General, the Swan Island ship-repair firm, after working there for two years. He was on probation for a domestic-violence assault conviction in Washington County.

He also noted that he had completed his associate's degree.

Quiñones pleaded no contest to the distributing charge in exchange for prosecutors dropping the possession charge. He was sentenced in February 1999 to 35 months in state prison.

'A room full of shoes'

Quiñones didn't see the inside of a Multnomah County jail again until last week, when police broke through the front door of his olive-green North Borthwick Avenue townhouse to serve an arrest warrant Dec. 8. Police had Quiñones under surveillance for months beforehand.

The neighborhood just north of North Portland Boulevard is modest, the house rented and tax-abated until 2013. Quiñones lives there with his longtime girlfriend and his two kids, according to court records. The townhouse next door is on the market for $259,930.

Inside the house where Quiñones lives, police found a handgun, 6 ounces of crack, 854 grams of powder cocaine and $7,500 in cash. Police also took bank records, jewelry and high-end electronics, and found closets filled with expensive clothes and, as the Street Crime Unit's Davis put it, a 'room full of shoes.'

Police also seized his Mercedes, the place from which police believe he distributed drugs to lower-level dealers.

Quiñones largely stopped dealing downtown last spring, Davis said, moving his operations into Southeast and Northeast Portland after officers began targeting him.

Quiñones remains in jail on charges of manufacturing, distributing and possessing cocaine and for being a felon in possession of a firearm. His bail is set at $500,000, and his preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.


Related document:

Police report from one of Dante Quiñones' early arrests (PDF file, 700 KB)

Jacob Quinn Sanders