| Crime |

How the Feds Busted a Zetas-Connected Cocaine Ring Supplying Dallas with 100 Kilos per Month

The feds were quite pleased in 2010 when Operation Greedy Grove, their months-long takedown of a Pleasant Grove-based crack ring, resulted in 28 arrests and the seizure of several kilograms of cocaine, more than a dozen guns, and $210,000 cash. But the guys they picked up -- "Rat," "Ron Don," and "G-Bone," among others -- were small-fry gang-bangers, violent but unsophisticated. They may have disrupted one small corner of North Texas' drug market and made life in Pleasant Grove a bit less dangerous, but, in the grand scheme of things, they'd made scarcely a dent.

The most valuable thing to come out of Greedy Grove was information. The man who supplied the Highland Hills Posse, NFL Boyz, and other targeted street gangs with cocaine agreed to cooperate with DEA and FBI agents as they looked for targets higher up the supply chain. And so, on January 19, 2011, he led them to the parking lot of a Spring Creek BBQ.

There, as cars whizzed past on Wheatland Road, he met with a man named Arturo "Flaco" Picaso, 32, and agreed to buy a kilogram of cocaine for $23,800. They didn't make the deal until a month later, when they met again in the parking lot of an apartment complex in far southwest Dallas. Federal agents were watching as Picaso rolled up in a gold Mercedes, his girlfriend and infant child in the car with him, and handed off a package of coke and complimentary razor blade.

This was enough to get a wiretap on Picaso's phone, which led them up another rung to 52-year-old Ricardo Morales Sr. Picaso called Morales to resupply after his recent sale, but Morales said he wanted to take it slow so he could be sure not to fall behind on payments.

"Well, they took those that didn't pay them over there. Do you understand?" he said. "But, ah, I don't want to get too involved with them because they are assholes, and if something happens, and then they could come and those assholes could do something to me, you understand?"

In another conversation, Morales explained that "those damn men, fucking Zetas," had locked down highways in a region of Mexico and were stopping and searching every car that passed through, delaying Dallas-bound drug shipments.

It's not clear from court documents if or when Picaso got more cocaine, since a subsequent wiretap of Morales' phone shifted agents' attention yet another rung up the ladder to his supplier, Rosendo "Borardo" Chappa.

On July 8, Chappa sent a courier to Morales' house to pick up $22,300 he was owed. Federal agents watched the whole thing and, as the man was leaving, alerted Dallas police. Officers then found some reason to make a traffic stop and arrested him on outstanding warrants. Inside the car, they found the cash and 17.7 grams of cocaine hidden behind the passenger-side airbag. The courier agreed to cooperate.

His first major tip came two weeks later when, on July 23, he told agents that Chappa was going to buy 20 kilograms of coke from Omar "Pilas" Acosta. The agents were too late to catch the sale, but they made sure to be there early the next day when Chappa met Acosta in a Burger King parking lot and handed over $88,000 while agents took pictures from afar.

Acosta, in turn, led them to Alonzo de la Rosa Jordan, a.k.a. "Gordo," who drove a white Ford F-150, the bed of which was often laden with carpet drums filled with 100 or more kilograms of cocaine that he would distribute to Acosta and Chappa.

The feds finally began closing in on August 19. They staked out the parking lot by Nordstrom at the Galleria, where Chappa handed Acosta a package full of money. They had Dallas police pull him over as he left for changing lanes without signaling. He didn't have his license but offered to fetch it from his apartment nearby. Officers accepted his invitation to come inside, then placed him under arrest for outstanding warrants.

Acosta was happy to let officers search his truck but became upset when they asked to inspect the other apartment unit for which he had a key. But they didn't need his permission, just the trained nose of Jan, their police canine, who went wild at the scent of six kilograms of cocaine hidden in the apartment in question. Officers also seized more than $200,000 in cash.

News of Acosta's arrest set off something of a panic among the others, who feared he might cooperate with the feds. Jordan called Chappa and asked to store 26 kilograms of cocaine at his place. Problem was, the feds had gotten a wiretap and were listening in. It wasn't hard from there to find the tightly packed bundles tucked in a hidden compartment behind the stove.

Federal investigators have since linked the cocaine ring to Los Zetas cartel. They say it was importing upwards of 100 kilograms of cocaine per month in exchange for large vacuum-sealed bags of cash.

All 10 men arrested in the conspiracy have been convicted. Acosta, the final participant to be nailed, was sentenced last week to 84 months in federal prison

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