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How the Feds Took Down a Large Dallas Meth Ring, Five Years After Bungling Their First Try

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In 2007, the Dallas Police Department and DEA were on the cusp of taking down a major drug distribution ring, or so they thought. Nine months of undercover work had yielded evidence that large quantities of meth and cocaine were being smuggled from Mexico to a house at 2737 Seevers Avenue for distribution.

That September, law enforcement agents conducted a sweep of the property that yielded one pound of ice, a half pound of cocaine, $34,000 in cash, and federal indictments against two members of the operation, Jorge Vasquez and Crystal Herrera.

But Herrera and Vasquez were small fish, bit players in a distribution ring run by Tony Hernandez, who had assumed control after his brother, Gonzalo, was murdered by the Los Zetas Cartel for work he did for the rival Sinaloa Carte.

Police didn't yet have enough evidence to go after Hernandez, so they enlisted the help of Herrera and Vasquez, who were allowed to remain free so long as they cooperated in the investigation.That turned out to be a serious misstep. Herrera and Vasquez promptly fled to Mexico, where they remain at large. Meanwhile, Hernandez' operation continued to operate uninterrupted.

It was another four years before a tip from an FBI informant brought the attention of law enforcement to Hernandez' East Oak Cliff-based operation. The informant didn't at first mention Hernandez, now 29, but told the Feds that Andres Vasquez, aka La Cuera, was receiving eight or so pounds of meth each week from Mexico, which he would then sell from a home on Ramsey Avenue. The informant visited the house on April 1, 2011 and spotted a large cache of ammunition and two AK-47s, one of which, he was told, belonged to Hernandez, Vasquez' nephew.

Police were more deliberate about their investigation this time around. They started by sending the informant, along with two others, to make relatively small buys from Vasquez as they collected additional information. The amount of product wasn't eight pounds per week but three to four times that much, flown from Mexico to an unknown location before being brought to Hernandez and Vasquez. Hernandez, who was working for La Familia Cartel, would often trade the drugs for firearms, which he would arrange to be smuggled into Mexico.

Undercover FBI agents became involved January 2012 and arranged to make increasingly large purchases over the next several months, all the while piecing together the details of the operation, both through observation and wiretaps. In February, it was a pound of meth, which Hernandez brought in the 12-pack of Coca Cola he was carrying, casually lamenting that he had purchased only six kilograms of cocaine for the Super Bowl rather than the 10 that were available.

In August, as he awaited the delivery of 10 ounces of meth on Seevers Avenue, he was stared down by a woman whom he immediately recognized "as the elderly female on a Facebook photograph where she was holding an assault rifle," according to an affidavit filed in federal court.

The 20-month investigation finally came to a head on Monday, when Miguel Montero (aka Chuckie) was arrested by Dallas police after selling an undercover officer a kilogram of meth for $22,500, which he produced from a Louis Vuitton handbag. The same day, the FBI executed search warrants at houses on Alaska and Ramsey Avenue and a cluster of four houses in the 2700 block of Seevers Avenue.

Along with Montero, 19, officers arrested Hernandez; 20-year-old Roberto Vasquez (aka Beto, aka Bubba); 28-year-old Agne Vasquez; 20-year-old Johnny Angel Gamez; Sergio Piccaso-Neito; and 44-year-old Maria Reyna Vasquez. Also seized: lots of drugs, guns, and a Bentley.

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