Guns, heroin and meth trades in front of Dutch Brothers: More alleged smuggling between Sacramento and Tahoe

A surveillance photograph, taken in front of a Dutch Brothers Coffee in Citrus Heights, was entered into evidence in a new FBI case in federal court in Sacramento.

Suspect parked his SUV right in front of FBI agent while allegedly directing deal for pounds of meth at everyone’s favorite espresso stand 

Law enforcement’s ongoing effort to curb “ghost guns” and assault weapons flowing from Nevada into California keeps snagging alleged drug dealers in its net, too, continuing to map a broad trafficking network between South Lake Tahoe and the suburbs of Sacramento. In the wake of six individuals being indicted for smuggling along those rat-lines last summer, federal authorities recently announced more conspiracy charges, including for an individual who was reportedly directing a major meth deal in front of Dutch Brothers Coffee in Citrus Heights.

The recent indictment was the latest news to come out of Operation Bear Trap, a multi-state, multi-jurisdictional law enforcement initiative focused on a black-market network for illegal weapons, meth and heroin between the Golden State and northwest Nevada. As federal agents and local deputies conducted undercover buys of guns and drugs from Carson City to Tahoe’s Hard Rock Hotel, they became aware of a significant meth and heroin dealer named William Owen, according to an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Preston Patton.

Owen is a 47-year-old who’s associated with a jet ski rental business in the Sacramento County town of Rio Linda.

Owen was arrested in late June 2022, along with five other suspected drug and gun-runners. But the FBI and El Dorado Sheriff’s Office weren’t done. Confidential sources in South Lake Tahoe had told them about another alleged dealer who purchased from Owen, a 64-year-old woman named Wendy Labuda. Those sources reportedly relayed that Labuda was also working with a different meth-slinger known as “Junior.” After more investigation, the FBI determined that “Junior” was a Sacramento man, 54-year-old Efrain Valentin, according to court filings.

On March 1, 2022, Valentin, or “Junior,” rolled up to the Dutch Brothers Coffee in north Citrus Heights on the edge of Antelope. He was in a Cadillac Escalade that he’d allegedly received as a drug payment. Valentin pulled into a side space next to the blue-and-grey caffeine Mecca that faces Linchen Drive. Special Agent Patton wrote in a search warrant that Valentin had just happened to stop his Cadillac “directly in front of the FBI agent writing this warrant.”

A photograph entered into evidence in federal court purportedly shows Efrain “Junior” Valentin moving pounds of meth in Citrus Heights.

To Valentin’s left, the parking area opened onto a shopping center for Fitness 19, Raley’s and the Dollar Tree. Law enforcement also observed Labuda pull into the area in a Mercedes SUV. According to Preston’s affidavit, Labuda had been communicating earlier with a former burglar about a business opportunity. There are many nicknames on the street for what Labuda was said to be advertising: “wash,” “go-go juice,” “bikers’ coffee.” Whatever term’s preferred, Labuda allegedly had plenty of it. The deal was for three full pounds. What Labuda didn’t know was that the burglar was now working for the FBI.

Special Agent Patton’s report says Labuda had been texting her potential buyer “that she had lowered her methamphetamine prices” and later specified “that she could sell the methamphetamine for $2,200 per pound.” 

With Dutch Brothers blasting zippy dance tunes from the 1980s, and with undercover officers and agents parked behind Valentin, the surveillance target allegedly supervised as Labuda took her SUV over to The Dollar Tree to meet the former burglar. She was also allegedly carrying 91 grams of heroin. Authorities note that the heroin came from William Owen in Rio Linda. The burglar was secretly fitted with video and audio recording devices, which, according to documented evidence, picked up Labuda saying, “This is nerve-racking: Here you go – check it out.”

Patton wrote what law enforcement says happened next.

“After taking the money … Labuda got out of the car and walked back to her SUV,” he detailed. “She called a short time later to explain that she was going to go ‘across the street to pay my dude.’”

The undercover team took photographs Labuda as she moved.

A joint law enforcement team served a warrant on this house in Del Paso Heights in March of 2022.

Later that same day, the FBI raided Valentin’s house in Del Paso Heights, where they allegedly found another pound of meth and a Derringer pistol that the suspect was in illegal possession of, being a prohibited person. Valentin and Labuda were arrested on multiple charges.

According to health officials, more than 176 people died in Sacramento County of opioid or fentanyl overdoses between the start of 2021 and the first half of 2022. Placer health officials reported a 450% increase in fatal overdoses in their county during roughly the same window. Just prior to pandemic, in the summer of 2019, NPR documented that of 7,000 recent psychiatric emergency visits at San Francisco General Hospital, 47% were people who weren’t necessarily mentally ill, but were high on methamphetamine. The next month, Steve Offerman, chief of medical toxicology service for Kaiser Permanente Northern California and an emergency room physician in South Sacramento, told News & Review that firefighters and police officers were often having to hold patients down in the ER because their meth-induced psychosis was so dangerous to nurses and doctors. Offerman added that South Sacramento Kaiser’s emergency department sees people in that condition “daily.”

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1 Comment on "Guns, heroin and meth trades in front of Dutch Brothers: More alleged smuggling between Sacramento and Tahoe"

  1. you have always been a good reliable source of news, and information.Thank you

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