A 16-month-long investigation led to Monday’s takedown of a believed drug ring police said delivered as much as 50 kilograms of cocaine per month to Middle Tennessee.
Metro Police said Tuesday afternoon that in addition to multiple arrests, the investigation led to the seizure of $200,000 cash, 68 pounds of cocaine, 14 weapons, 13 vehicles, three motorcycles and two bulletproof vests.
The joint investigation involving police in Davidson and Rutherford counties, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency began in the fall of 2009. Law enforcement officials called what came to be known as the Berly Drug Trafficking Organization a large and fairly sophisticated group.
Jorge Berly (a.k.a. Maykin Espana) is the alleged ringleader who orchestrated the delivery of drugs into the midstate from Mexico through California.
Law enforcement authorities arrested Berly, 21, of 6808 Alto Vista Drive in western Davidson County, and seven others Monday on various charges including money laundering, felony drug offenses, felony weapon possession and violating drug-free school zones.
Investigators believe the organization, which involved a long-haul truck driver, shipped about 110 pounds a month of “nearly pure cocaine” from Southern California to a stash house at 2829 Creekview Drive, where the cocaine was then cut with other chemicals to increase the amount sold on the street.
According to arrest warrants, police found a Glock 9mm pistol with a fully loaded magazine next to it under a mattress in Berly’s bedroom as well as a ledger, located in a nightstand, containing information related to drug sales.
Authorities arrested Luis Colon, 27, at the Creekview Drive stash house, which he allegedly guarded. There, police said they found multiple guns, including two .40-caliber pistols, a 9mm handgun and a SKS rifle.
Long-haul truck driver Van Smith, 49, allegedly hauled large shipments of cocaine in a tractor-trailer from Ontario, Calif., and an area near the U.S.-Mexico border to his mother’s house in Blue Mountain, Miss.
There, the drug would be loaded into a smaller vehicle and driven to Davidson County via back roads, presumably to avoid the Interstate 40 corridor known for drug trafficking.
Also on Monday morning, police arrested Jose Velasquez, 39, and Edwin Palma, 35, at a home at 683 Holland Ridge Dr. in La Vergne.
Police believe Velasquez set up the arrangement between Berly and Smith to transport the cocaine. Law enforcement agents allegedly watched Velasquez, Smith and Berly drive to a home at 303 Valley Forge Court in La Vergne, where police said they found 27 kilograms (about 59 pounds) of cocaine Monday.
When Palma was arrested, police said he had a key to a Toyota truck that was found inside the closed garage of a home at 172 Bill Stewart Blvd. in La Vergne. Inside the home, investigators allegedly found a loaded AK-47 rifle, money wrappers, a money counter, a vacuum sealer and bags.
Police arrested Berly’s wife Ileana Reyna, 21, for allegedly packaging $40,000 on Oct.13, 2010, at the home of Juan Reyna, 39, before another suspect, Victor Quijada, 37, allegedly delivered the money to pay for cocaine.
Police said Quijada, of 219 Sam Davis Drive in Smyrna, is a mechanic who rigged hidden compartments in vehicles to transport drugs, money and weapons. He also allegedly leased some of the properties used as stash houses.
Tuesday afternoon, all eight remained in jail charged with engaging in a cocaine conspiracy.
Berly is also charged with possession of cocaine for resale, felony possession of a firearm and money laundering. He is being held in lieu of $1.5 million bond.
Smith is being held on $1.25 million bond.
Berly’s wife, Quijada and Juan Reyna are also charged with money laundering. They are being held on $1 million bond.
Velasquez and Palma are being held on $750,000. Colon, who police also charged with being a felon in possession of a weapon, is being held on $800,000.