The Austin Chronicle

Witness Says Pardo Taught Her to Cut Heroin

By Jordan Smith, February 12, 2013, 7:24pm, Newsdesk

Amado Pardo started out as Tatiana Huang's dealer and ended up her employer, the 25-year-old testified Tuesday, on the second day of the trial of Jose Pardo and Jorge Carrillo, who the federal government says were key players in a well-organized heroin trafficking operation based in South Austin.

Huang, then a UT student from Ecuador, was an addict; she'd been using heroin since 2004, and went to Amado Pardo in the summer of 2010 looking for a job. He put her to work in the kitchen of Jovita's Tex-Mex restaurant on South First Street. She never got a paycheck, she testified. Instead, she got dope to feed her habit. But that was just as precious as money, she told Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Cottingham, because she needed to keep using heroin in order to avoid withdrawal – nausea, sleeplessness, diarrhea. "I didn't want to get sick," she testified. In order to keep that from happening, Huang said she'd shoot up four times a day.

And it wasn't until after Huang was arrested, along with 14 others and charged federally as being part of a conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute large quantities of heroin – the result of a year-long joint-federal-state-local investigation dubbed Operation Muerte Negra, or Black Death – that Huang finally got treatment for her addiction, she said.

Huang was the first witness on the second day of the trial of Carrillo and Jose Pardo. According to prosecutors, Carrillo supplied heroin to both Jose Pardo and to his younger brother Amado "Mayo" Pardo, patriarch of Jovita's who died last month from complications related to liver cancer and other ailments. The government alleges that Amado Pardo was the ringleader of an organization including his brother that for years dealt large quantities of heroin across Austin.

Indeed, according to Huang, she worked in the kitchen for three months before being taught by Amado Pardo and his wife Amanda how to cut and process the heroin for street sale. From that time on until she was arrested on June 21, 2012, she cut with pharmaceutical lactose roughly six ounces of black tar heroin each week, diluting the pure product for individual sale. She and Amanda Pardo would crush the heroin with a hammer and mix it with lactose in a blender before filling colored balloons each with .2 grams of dope; an 18-pack of balloons equalled a single unit sold to street-level dealers.

Huang said Amado Pardo told her that Carrillo was the one supplying him with the heroin – starting at $1,300 per ounce – but that he told her to wait upstairs at his Milton St. home whenever Carrillo came by to drop it off. As such, she never actually saw Carrillo, she said, until after she and the others were arrested last summer. Indeed, Huang said she'd only met Jose Pardo once before then also, but had overheard Amado Pardo talking to him on the phone – conversations she said she knew were about heroin.

Carrillo attorney Rip Collins pointed out on cross examination that Huang was hoping to get a lighter sentence for her cooperation with the government (even as an addict working only to feed her habit, Huang could face up to life in prison for her participation in the trafficking organization). Huang didn't deny that was true – "I hope so, yes," she replied to Collins' inquiry. Indeed, Jose Pardo's attorney Stephen Orr noted that it was Amado that Huang worked for, not his client, a fact with which Huang agreed.

Both Orr and Collins have taken every opportunity to note that the government's case – at least thus far – only directly implicates Amado and Amanda Pardo in the heroin trafficking organization that police have said was in operation for years, and only tangentially, and so far without physical evidence, implicates their clients. Still, prosecutors Cottingham and Daniel Guess Tuesday afternoon read through a series of transcripts of wiretapped phone conversations involving Carrillo and Amado Pardo, and Amado Pardo and his brother Jose, which they suggested mapped out the connection between the supplier and dealers. And Texas Dept. of Public Safety investigator Dwayne Urbanovsky testified that agents followed Carillo on numerous occasions as he made a loop from his home in Caldwell County into Austin, where he stopped regularly, for short visits, at the homes of both Amado and Jose Pardo. Notably, Urbanovsky said that although officers "constantly surveilled him," no one ever saw Carrillo, who Collins said worked as a small-time contractor, with any tools or going to work.

Still, Collins noted, Carrillo was never caught with any drugs – not even on the morning he was arrested, just after 6 am, at his home. That's true, Urbanovsky testified, though roughly $22,000 was found in a plastic bag in his closet. Still, Urbanovsky said he was not surprised that no drugs were found because dealers often sequester their stash away from their home. "So that law enforcement can't detect it," he said, "it's not left out."

Testimony in the case continues Wednesday.

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