At press time, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane was set to consider letting out on bond two of the 15 defendants charged with conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute heroin as a part of what the police say was an "extensive" heroin trafficking operation out of Jovita's Tex-Mex restaurant and music venue on South First Street.
Eighteen individuals were arrested on June 21, charged with participating in the drug ring, in the culmination of a yearlong joint federal-state-local investigation dubbed Operation Muerte Negra, or Black Death. On July 3, Lane was scheduled to consider whether to release from custody Alfredo Alvarez, 62, and Tatiana Huang, 25, until the charges against them can be resolved. So far, Lane has released on bond, with conditions, four of the defendants – including Amanda Pardo, 45, wife of alleged ringleader Amado "Mayo" Pardo, 64, whose family owns Jovita's – after federal prosecutors dropped their opposition to their release. The Pardo family hopes the venue can reopen while the case is pending, and Amanda Pardo's attorney David Sheppard got the go-ahead for Amanda to work there, provided none of the other co-defendants also work there.
Lane has declined to release Dionicio Sanchez, after FBI Special Agent Steve Hause testified he was being groomed by Amado Pardo to take over daily drug distribution duties for another defendant, Michael Martinez, who'd been popped for possession by local cops and who the crew expected would soon be incarcerated and out of action. In denying Sanchez bond, Lane noted that despite having cirrhosis, the 62-year-old had admitted that he had been using heroin regularly for nine months prior to his arrest. "[G]iven his health situation, I feel like I'm doing him a favor," Lane said, by keeping him locked up while the case is pending. On June 28, Lane also denied bail for Christopher Mier, Amado Pardo's nephew, who Hause said had been a "daily supplier of heroin to users since late 2010," selling the drug in packs of 18 balloons, each holding roughly .3 grams, for a cost of $200 – a retail package and price that Hause said was "a signature of Mr. Pardo's organization."
The court has yet to consider bond for Amado Pardo, the alleged kingpin of the organization; though his hearing was also set to be heard June 28, his lawyer, Ben Florey, asked for it to be reset again. It's now slated for July 10. That afternoon, Lane is also expected to consider whether to grant bond to another of Pardo's alleged right-hand men, brother Jose Pardo.
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