Two men arrested at the River Hills Mall Monday have connections to a methamphetamine distribution ring that was allegedly shipping thousands of dollars worth of the drug in liquid form before selling it by the ounce in solid form in Iowa and Minnesota.
Several ounces of meth were purchased by Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators who traveled to Mason City, Iowa, in February to set up the buys after receiving information from the South Central Drug Investigation Unit, a drug task force based in Owatonna.
Task force agents asked for BCA assistance after setting up a buy from Ricardo Camberos-Valle, 26 on Feb. 9. The sting to buy 3 ounces of meth was not successful, but Camberos-Valle was stopped by a state trooper anyway because investigators suspected he had 5 ounces of the drug in his vehicle.
Camberos-Valle and another man, 25-year-old Juan Jose Lopez, were the two men arrested at the Mankato mall Monday. They met the BCA investigators in the parking lot after a deal was set up to buy 5 ounces of meth. Lopez allegedly delivered the meth to an agent waiting in a vehicle while Camberos-Valle walked into the mall’s food court. Lopez was arrested in the parking lot and Camberos-Valle in the mall after he appeared to be sending texts from his cellphone, the complaints said.
Both men had been followed to the mall from a house at 123 Seventh Ave. in St. James, a residence that had been linked to previous drug buys by the BCA investigators. That house was searched Monday shortly after the arrests because agents were concerned that Camberos-Valle had told people there to get rid of evidence after watching Lopez’s arrest from the food court.
St. James Police Chief Mark Carvatt said he couldn’t comment on what was found in the house because his officers were only assisting the BCA. No charges had been filed in Watonwan County District Court as a result of the search as of Wednesday afternoon.
A third man, allegedly the leader of the drug-trafficking organization, also has been charged and there is a warrant for his arrest. That man, 24-year-old Francisco Orozco-Padilla, is the person the BCA agent met in Mason City. The agent was posing as a customer interested in purchasing large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine.
During that Feb. 19 meeting, Orozco-Padilla allegedly told the agent he could provide meth in pound quantities. He said the drug was shipped in liquid form before his organization turned it back into solid form for sale, the complaint said.
He also allegedly told the agent about $35,000 in cash was seized after one of his associates was stopped by law enforcement near Mason City. The agent checked with authorities and learned an Iowa state trooper had confiscated $38,000 during a traffic stop on Feb. 1. Paperwork also was found in the car that showed $98,000 in cash was confiscated from the same driver when he was stopped by a California Highway Patrol officer in January.
The agent’s first meth purchase from Orozco-Padilla took place March 18, the complaints said. Two ounces of the drug were delivered to the agent by Lopez during a meeting in the parking lot of the Mankato Godfather’s Pizza restaurant on Tullamore Avenue.
Orozco-Padilla told the agent the delivery would be made by someone in St. James. Officers there were able to find vehicles registered to Orozco-Padilla, Camberos-Valle and Lopez parked at the house at 123 Seventh Ave. after the Mankato deal.
Another 2 ounces of meth were purchased April 10 in the parking lot of the St. James Shopko during another deal set up by the agent. About a half gram of cocaine also was part of the deal.
Other criminal complaints filed in Blue Earth County show Mankato drug task force agents paid about $100 per gram for cocaine during stings involving smaller amounts. The BCA complaints do not say how much agents were paying for the meth they were buying by the ounce. There are 28 grams in an ounce.