search of car, home yields cash, Oxycodone pills, ledger book
days later, multi-agency operation arrests 16 across southern Arizona on drug, firearm charges
SIERRA VISTA – At first glance it appeared the Sierra Vista Police Dept got lucky when an October 31 traffic stop led to the discovery of dozens of Oxycodone pills hidden in a vehicle. However, court records reveal local officers were interested in the driver, 43 year old Yariza Nevarez Villalobos, after receiving information from a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent about the woman’s suspected drug activity.
According to an affidavit by Sierra Vista PD detective Branden Eaton, local officers were informed in October that federal authorities had Villalobos under surveillance for five months.
The woman came to HSI’s attention after a “concerned citizen” provided a tip that Villalobos kept large quantities of cash, heroin, and Oxycodone in her residence. The tip also noted Villalobos frequently traveled to Mexico with a large amount of cash to obtain the drugs from her husband, who court records show was deported several years ago.
During one of her trips to Mexico, Villalobos was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Douglas Port of Entry on June 10. She declared $6000 in cash on her way out of the country but returned with only $200. She explained the rest of the money was given to her husband. At the time, Villalobos was on probation in Pima County for a 2014 conviction for solicitation to possess marijuana for sale. She was also pending trial in Sierra Vista Justice Court on prescription drug and shoplifting charges.
Court records show that the HSI agent informed Sierra Vista PD that federal authorities had been monitoring Villalobos’ frequent trips to and from Mexico, and that she was suspected of selling Oxycodone and heroin in the Sierra Vista area. The agent also noted that Villalobos used a silver Lexus during the “transportation and sales” of drugs.
HSI is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and has authority to investigate cross-border criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking, weapons and human smuggling, financial crimes, money laundering, and cash smuggling, as well cyber-crimes and immigration fraud.
The information from HSI led local officers to keep an eye out for Villalobos. Just before noon on October 31, detective Eaton observed the silver Lexus make an improper left turn. Then another officer initiated the traffic stop after clocking the car traveling 51mph in a 35mph zone.
While one officer was writing the traffic citation, Sierra Vista PD sergeantMarco Madrid obtained permission from Villalobos to search the Lexus. During the search, 65 Oxycodone pills were located throughout the vehicle, hidden inside several plastic containers that would normally hold refill lead for mechanical pencils. Those containers were then concealed inside Al Capone Sweets packages.
Villalobos was arrested at the scene of the traffic stop for possession of narcotic drugs for sale, possession of a narcotic drug, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The Lexus was impounded by Sierra Vista PD and taken to the police station. Later that day local officers and federal agents took part in a search of Villalobos’ townhouse-style home on Buena Loma Way authorized by judge Timothy Dickerson of the Sierra Vista Justice Court.
Aninventory report submitted to the courtby detective William Heiple after the search notes that more than two dozen items were seized from the home. Some of the items include a financial ledger and receipts, an undisclosed amount of cash, a box of Halcion tablets and Valium vials, as well as eight cell phones and two electronic scales. A Night Owl security system was also seized.
On November 4 judge Dickerson authorized additional searches, two for cell phones taken into evidence during the arrest, and one for a more thorough search of the Lexus after a K9 alerted to the back seat of the car. However, Dickerson dismissed the case against Villalobos when a formal complaint was not filed by the county attorney within 48 hours. The county attorney can file a direct complaint at a later date or refer the matter to the grand jury for an indictment.
Trips to Mexico allowed despite probation status
When HSI first began its surveillance of Villalobos she was on probation out of Pima County. The terms of her probation had been modified in February 2015 to allow for periodic visits with her husband in Mexico. Villalobos was discharged from probation by judge Richard Nichols of the Pima Superior Court on October 14, two weeks before her arrest by Sierra Vista PD.
In April, while still on probation out of Pima County, Villalobos was charged in the Sierra Vista Justice Court with shoplifting and possession of a narcotic without a prescription. She pleaded guilty to the shoplifting charge under a plea deal. Court records show Villalobos has prior criminal convictions for assault (1999), open liquor in a vehicle (2003), and possession of drug paraphernalia (2005). She has also received nearly a dozen traffic citations over the years.
A few days after Villalobos’ October 31 arrest, HSI was involved in a multi-agency effort on that resulted in 16 arrests across southern Arizona. According to a HSI press release, those arrested on November 3 were suspected of being part of a heroin drug trafficking ring with connections to the Sinaloa Cartel. During the arrests authorities seized “more than a half dozen vehicles, multiple computers and cell phones, along with several ledgers and scales.”
Contact reporter Terri Jo Neff at 520-508-3660 and firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR’S NOTE: from the Homeland Security press release of Nov 3, 2016:
Sean Player Dixon, 42
Pauline Dixon, 42 [wife of Sean P Dixon]
Terrence Gooden, 34 [nephew of Dixon]
Ricky Manning Jr, 35 [nephew of Dixon]
Janeayi Manning-Qualls, 33 [niece of Dixon]
Raymond Pro, 39
Virgil Fleming, 45
Teresa Torres, 73
Ezekiel Jackson, 28
Robert Glaspie Jr, 28
Enrique Estrada, 44
Andres Acedo, 36
Jennifer Ann Estrada, 38
Rosalva Perez, 56
Authorities underscore the operation is still ongoing and several of the suspects being sought in the case remain at large.