Drug bust seizes five tons of marijuana

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INDIANPOLIS - Indiana State Police have taken on a major supplier with a historic drug bust involving huge amounts of pot and millions of dollars.

The stack of marijuana bricks would have made it to the streets, but instead is in police custody, along with several suspect drug dealers.

"It's not a good time to be a drug dealer in Marion County," said Deputy Prosecutor Rick Frank.

The huge drug bust is part of an investigation started back in March of this year on Jairo Ramirez. Narcotics officers arrested the 26-year-old after having him and other suspects on 24-hour surveillance.

"They followed all of these people around town until they could determine where was the warehouse that contained all this marijuana," said Deputy Chief Josh Minkler, Department of Justice.

Warrants served at a house rented by Ramirez uncovered $750,000 stashed inside the home. Investigators also secretly followed their suspects to places like a hotel on Rockville Road. The investigation eventually hit a warehouse on South Girls School Road, where a narcotics dog hit on drugs inside.

After finding six bins of marijuana full of drugs just inside the loading dock door, investigators waited to see who would come and claim the drugs.

"That happened around 10:50, there was a van that left the warehouse and we did a traffic stop," Frank said.

Investigators are now promising to not only go after the dealers and their drugs, but also their spoils.

"We are going to find you. You are going to be arrested. We are going to take your cars, your money and we are going to take everything you have gotten in illegal proceeds in narcotics," Frank said.

"If you plan on distributing drugs here, then plan on going to jail, whether it's state prison or jail," said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.

Because of the huge amount of both drugs and money, investigators are now working on possible ties to a Mexican drug cartel.

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U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett announced Monday the largest drug bust in Marion County history and one of the largest - if not the largest - in state history.

The bust followed a six-month investigation between the Drug Enforcement Administration, Metropolitan Drug Task Force and other state and local agencies.

Authorities seized more than five tons of marijuana and a total of $4.3-million in drug proceeds  The bulk value of the drugs seized would be roughly $5 million, but the "street value" could be more than ten times that amount. 

"The DEA and Metro Drug made history last week," Hogsett said. "Not only will taking these drugs off of the streets have a profound direct effect on this community, I am also proud to announce that the millions in cash taken from the Mexican drug lords will help fund public safety efforts in Indianapolis and throughout central Indiana for years to come."

The bust was at least the fourth major operation this year using federal-state cooperation to DEA with drugs and guns in Marion County. 

After seizing a tractor trailer leaving a west side grocery store in the spring, agents in Indianapolis identified Jairo Ramirez, 26, and began surveillance in mid-October. Ramirez was observed repeatedly meeting with both Efren Perez, 20, and Julio Cesar Castaneda, 36, who were similarly put under surveillance. Officers noticed that Perez and Castaneda frequently visited a west side warehouse.

A K-9 search found a large stash of marijuana at the warehouse, and police arrested Tomas Toledo, 29, driving a van containing 600 pounds of marijuana from the warehouse on October 17. 

Perez, Castaneda and Ramirez were arrested at separate locations within an hour of Toledo's arrest.  That led officers to multiple stashes of money.

The next day, they raided the warehouse and recovered 9,000 pounds of marijuana.

Ramirez, Perez, Castaneda and Toledo now face charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute, and distributing 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana.

Castaneda and Toledo were inside the United States illegally.