BLACKFOOT — Three men local law enforcement believe were operating a drug ring out of Blackfoot were arrested Wednesday night on federal charges following a three-month investigation.
Paulino Ayala-Rodriguez, 31, and Eduardo Jimenez, 20, were taken into custody Wednesday night following a raid on a residence at 154 Golden St. in Blackfoot. The third man, Carlos Baldovinos, 19, was arrested in Pocatello at Convergys as he was leaving work. During the raid law enforcement seized 293 grams of methamphetamine with a street value of $30,000, three vehicles and a four-wheeler. There were 11 people inside the home on Golden, including four children.
All three men were arraigned in federal court Thursday in Pocatello. Ayala-Rodriguez is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute and four counts of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Baldovinos and Jimenez each face one count of each charge.
The Bear River Drug Task Force, comprised of law enforcement agencies from the seven counties in Southeastern Idaho, partnered with city police departments and have been investigating the three men since March. Law enforcement believe the men moved into the area from California with the intent to sell drugs.
Johnson said they believe Rodriguez was the main dealer and was traveling to California to purchase drugs to sell in Idaho. He also said Blackfoot was not the first place they set up a drug operation.
"They were set up armed, they were always packing weapons. They weren't just your wannabes," Johnson said. "These guys were professional at what they were doing. It's always great to be able to get them off the street."
Power County Sheriff's Office initially began the investigation into Rodriguez and the two men, then tipped off Bingham County law enforcement when they found the men were moving into Blackfoot.
In March the Bear River Drug Task Force began investigating and identifying the individuals and numerous undercover drug buys were made. The Drug Enforcement Agency became involved, and three federal indictments were made Tuesday night.
Law enforcement surveilled the three men over the past two weeks to determined the best time to make the arrests to bring the men into custody. Johnson said participating in the raid were approximately 75 members of law enforcement from 10 counties and cities, DEA officers, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, U.S. Marshals and the tactical response teams from Blackfoot/Bingham County and Bannock County.
"It takes a cooperation of all agencies to come together and work a case like this," Johnson said. "This has been going on for a long time in other states. Once it moved into our area we got on it quickly because we don't want this stuff on the streets. We don't want our kids getting this stuff."
Johnson said without the cooperation of surrounding agencies they would not have been able to make the arrests as quickly with as much evidence against the men.
"We're not going to put up with this once we find out its going on and we're going to join together to get them out of here, we don't want this stuff on our streets," Johnson said.
Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said drug traffickers often target rural areas because they do not have large law enforcement agencies and the dealers believe they can go undetected. But in Southeastern Idaho, the cooperation of the rural counties with the Bear River Drug Task Force enables the separate agencies to work together by sharing resources and information.
"They may come into a smaller community and think they have less officers, but when that comes down we want to come down with force, because we want them to know that we work together and that we're not going to tolerate it," Nielsen said.
Local agencies involved in the investigation and raid include the Blackfoot, Pocatello and Chubbuck Police Departments and the Bingham, Bannock, Power, Oneida, Franklin, Caribou and Bear Lake Sheriff's Offices.
State charges against the men are pending.
For video from the press conference, visit www.am-news.com .