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Local cops aid in drug trafficking case

The man in a husband-and-wife team selling large quantities of heroin in the greater Portland area was sentenced April 8, thanks in great part to evidence gathered by Columbia County’s Columbia Enforcement Narcotics Team (CENT).

Lizarraras-ChaconJose Lizarraras-Chacon, 38, originally from Nayarit, Mexico, will serve 17.5 years in prison for heroin trafficking and illegal reentry.

Portland police had been pursuing a case against the same husband-and-wife team, but did not have enough to make an arrest until CENT investigators were able to pass on information gathered in Columbia County, said CENT Unit Supervisor Detective Sergeant Phillip Edwards.

Gonzalez-TorresHe said this case was one of the biggest CENT has investigated recently.

In February 2011, CENT investigators began looking into a drug trafficking organization selling heroin in Columbia County. Investigators traced this heroin from local dealers back to the hands of a drug distribution network in the greater Portland area. One unnamed source admitted to the distribution of more than 47 pounds of heroin in a one-year period — a retail street value in excess of $1 million.

That’s huge, Edwards said.

“Our local folks are buying ounces,” he said. “These people are dealing in pounds.”

Investigators built their case over the ensuing months, infiltrating the organization and developing a strategy to dismantle it. They shared information with the Portland Police Bureau and the Drug Enforcement Administration leading to the arrest of Lizarraras-Chacon and his wife Maria Gonzalez-Torres, 33, Nov. 29, 2011.

That day, officers with the Portland Police Bureau’s Drugs and Vice Divison had arranged for a controlled purchase of heroin from the couple. Gonzalez-Torres answered the call, made the deal and said they would be on their way to deliver shortly.

Surveillance officers saw the couple, along with three children, leave their Portland apartment and drive away. Officers stopped the car as it was traveling towards the agreed-upon delivery location.

During the stop, a female officer searched Gonzalez-Torres and found approximately five ounces of heroin hidden in her bra as well as over $300 in a diaper bag. A search at the family’s apartment on East Burnside revealed over $84,000 in cash stashed all over the residence, approximately 470 grams of heroin and a .45 caliber semi-automatic firearm.

Gonzalez-Torres admitted she had been involved in her husband’s heroin business and had not held a legitimate job for four years.

Lizarraras-Chacon was convicted of unlawful delivery of heroin in Clackamas County in 2010 and had been deported to Mexico. He returned to the United States illegally and continued to distribute heroin until his arrest in 2011.