Four sentenced in drug ring

Published 3:30 pm Thursday, May 22, 2008

Four of the six men facing federal charges for a drug business busted open by local and regional authorities in Austin Aug. 14 were sentenced this week in U.S. District Court.

Each received a different sentence:

— Federico Garza, 27, received 54 months in prison Tuesday;

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— Jose Lopez Covarrubias, 28, was sentenced Monday to 27 months; and

— Cuyler Legrand Vaughn, 24, and Daniel Garza, 20, neither of whom were arrested with others during August search warrants, received 30 months.

Two others — Samuel Isaiah Garza, 19, and Humberto Lugo-Olivares Jr., 28 — await sentencing, having pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. All six were indicted on that charge.

A judge dismissed charges against 48-year-old Luis Collazo-Alvarez, the seventh indicted, Feb. 7, citing evidence disputing the credibility of the police informant used to substantiate the search warrant at the defendant’s home and the date listed on the warrant, which referred to alleged activity one year before the search was authorized.

Collazo-Alvarez had been charged with single counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. His original indictment was filed in October.

According to the Mower County criminal complaint, investigations into drug activity began June 23, when an Austin Police Department detective spoke with an investigator for the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office and Southeast Minnesota Narcotics Task Force about a meeting with Lugo, a narcotics dealer, to discuss a business relationship involving drugs.

The investigator continued to meet with Lugo at meetings monitored by law enforcement at later dates.

On one occasion, Lugo and the investigator went to the former Nemitz’s store, which was being renovated into a dance club, “Club Caliente,” saying that he and Federico Garza were business partners.

Lugo allegedly told the investigator he brought 85 pounds of marijuana to Minnesota, saying it was being held in a “safe house.” Several of the defendants sold marijuana and cocaine to the investigator at various locations in Austin, one time providing 55 grams of cocaine.

On Aug. 14, the detective arranged for a transaction at 1 p.m. to purchase 10 ounces of cocaine; that day law enforcement teams served search warrants at 309 Third Ave. S.W., 1011 East Oakland Ave., 407 North Main St. and 1307 Seventh Ave. N.W.

At Collazo-Alaverez’s residence, 1307 Seventh Ave. NW, authorities allegedly found 298 grams of cocaine in his pocket and a safe as well as $20,900 in cash.

At 309 Third Ave. SW, the listed residence of Samuel Garza, Lugo Jr., and several others charged with forgery, police allegedly found various forms of fraudulent identification, including Social Security cards, Resident Alien cards, birth certificates, Missouri and North Carolina IDs, instructional permits, and work documents from Select Foods in Albert Lea and Quality Pork Processors in Austin.

The forgery cases, implicating four Latino residents, remain in state court.