2016-07-14 ne-investigationp1

Officers work outside a house in the 1500 block of South Elwood Avenue where investigators arrested a man and said they found the makings of a pipe bomb. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Six people were arrested in multiple Tulsa neighborhoods Wednesday morning following the execution of six search warrants that targeted a “major” Mexican-based heroin smuggling and distribution organization, authorities said Wednesday afternoon.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that “Operation Train Tracks,” led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations, also enabled officials to seize $106,505 in proceeds that officials say are related to the drug-trafficking organization.

Three firearms — including one that was stolen and one that was illegally possessed by a convicted felon — two vehicles and 13 ounces of black tar heroin also were seized, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

Jose Sanchez, 41; Teresa Collier, 57; Carlos Tejeda-Hernandez, 31; Ty Rozell, 57; Joshua Williams, 28; and Alvaro Ruiz-Hernandez, 21, were arrested in the sweep.

Before Wednesday’s drug bust, Operation Train Tracks had resulted in 15 federal and 25 state criminal arrests, 15 federal indictments and 14 convictions, as well as the seizure of more than 19 kilograms of heroin and $170,000.

“This five-year-plus investigation has already been responsible for removing illegal drugs from our communities and prosecuting some of the criminals involved,” Katrina Berger, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Dallas, said in a statement.

“We will continue to work closely with Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and many other law enforcement partners in the ongoing war against illegal drugs and drug traffickers.”

Ruiz-Hernandez and Tejeda-Hernandez were arrested at a house in the 2100 block of North Louisville Avenue on complaints of drug trafficking and possessing or receiving drug proceeds, according to their booking reports.

The documents say Homeland Security agents and sheriff’s deputies arrived about 8 a.m. Wednesday at the residence, where they found about 371 grams of black tar heroin in balloons and tape balls. The report also says the agents found cash along with notes of wire transfers, as well as drug paraphernalia.

Williams was arrested on suspicion of drug possession at a home in the 1500 block of South Elwood Avenue about 8 a.m. Wednesday, while Rozell was arrested there about 11 a.m. on misdemeanor warrants.

Collier was arrested at 11:20 a.m. in the 2200 block of East 12th Street on three counts of delivering a controlled substance, while Sanchez was taken into custody in the 3600 block of South Indianapolis Avenue on complaints of drug possession and possession of a firearm, both after a felony conviction.

Rozell was released just after 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, while the others remain in custody, jail records show.

Officials also executed search warrants in the 8000 block of East 25th Place and the 3800 block of South Rockford Avenue. No arrests were made at those addresses.

The search at the home on Elwood Avenue drew additional attention after agents and officers located what appeared to be a pipe bomb. However, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Justin Green told the Tulsa World that the bomb, found in an outbuilding at the residence, was not loaded.

He said police closed off Elwood Avenue for about 45 minutes Wednesday morning and asked nearby residents to stay in their homes while authorities determined whether the bomb was functional.

A Homeland Security official told the Tulsa World the home was “really dirty,” and a neighbor said it frequently had renters who stayed for a few months at a time. Thomas Richmond, who lives across the street, said the homeowner sometimes lives there with family members, too.

“(The owner) rented it out to several different tenants,” Richmond said. “I see the same few people over a short amount of time, like within six to nine months you’d see the same people coming in and out. … At any given time, there’s at least 10 people in the home.”

In a statement, Sheriff Vic Regalado thanked the agencies involved in Wednesday’s bust.

“TCSO and our partners made a significant impact on the heroin trade in Tulsa County today,” he said. “No doubt our community is safer thanks to the cooperation of everyone that took part in this major drug bust.”

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Samantha Vicent 918-581-8321


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