Jovita's Seized by Feds
Police say heroin ring operated in restaurant
By Jordan Smith,
5:03PM, Thu. Jun. 21, 2012
Police today arrested 18 people alleged to be involved in an "extensive heroin distribution operation" – including Amado Pardo, the 64-year-old whose family owns Jovita's, which police say has long been a hub for heroin dealing in South Austin.
Moreover, at an afternoon press conference, police said that Pardo, his brother Jose, and an associate, Michael Martinez, are long-time members of the Texas Syndicate, a violent Texas gang that operates inside and outside Texas prisons and is a major player in the narco trade.
Police said they've seized Jovita's and several other properties owned by the Pardos, including two properties on Milton, behind Jovita's.
Although this investigation – a joint federal-state-local operation dubbed Muerte Negra, or "Black Death" – lasted just a year, Austin Police Department Cmdr. Donald Baker said that many of the players arrested (including the Pardos) have been "looked at for many years as being involved" in the heroin trade, "some going back 30 years." Police said that Jovita's, a Tex-Mex joint better known as a vibrant live music venue, was a center for heroin distribution, a place where meetings were held and deals were done. "There have been a lot of business transactions, illegal narcotics transactions in the restaurant, the parking lot" and at adjacent properties. Police today hit 10 properties, seized $38,000 in cash, $1.5 million in assets (including the restaurant), and two ounces of heroin.
A total of 15 people have been charged in federal court with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, which is punishable by 10 years to life in prison and up to a $4 million fine. Three others have been charged in state court; police say Bryan Kelly Harwell is still at large.