Antioch, Bay Point men convicted of drug trafficking

Following wiretap investigation into East Bay drug suppliers and significant seizures of fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine and cash

Attempt to use FBI investigation of APD officers as a defense denied

Third man convicted is illegal alien from Mexico; among 13 defendants indicted in 2019

Each face maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for every count on which they were convicted

By U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal jury has convicted three defendants—Luis Torres Garcia, Evan Martinez Diaz of Bay Point, and Timothy Peoples of Antioch—of multiple drug trafficking offenses following an eight-day trial, announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), San Francisco Field Division, Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Clark. The jury convicted the defendants on all counts, rendering its verdict on February 14, 2024, after deliberating for two hours. The verdict followed a trial before the Hon. Richard Seeborg, Chief U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California.

The three were among 13 defendants indicted in May 2019 “on narcotics trafficking charges, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Chris D. Nielsen.  The indictment follows the arrest of five of the defendants on April 30, 2019, and the execution of search warrants at thirteen locations, including nine residences in Contra Costa County, Humboldt County, Fairfield, Suisun City and Modesto.” (See related article)

The evidence at trial included calls intercepted between April 2018 and February 2019 as part of a federal wiretap investigation into two drug suppliers in the East Bay. The intercepted calls established, among other things, that both suppliers received drugs from sources in Mexico. At trial, the government also presented evidence of several significant drug seizures including: 8.8 pounds of fentanyl and heroin in May 2018, valued at as much as $1.1 million, according to uncontested evidence at trial; 18 pounds of methamphetamine in August 2018; and 20 pounds of methamphetamine and one kilogram of cocaine in February 2019. The evidence at trial also established that law enforcement seized more than $300,000 in drug-related cash over the course of the investigation.

Peoples, 44, of Antioch, California, was arrested after law enforcement officers found cocaine in his home, and charged with two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)–(C). Evidence presented at trial showed that Peoples was a regular customer of an Antioch-based cocaine wholesaler from whom he bought some 10.5 pounds of cocaine for more than $120,000 in a 90-day period. Peoples used the codeword “babies” to refer to ounce quantities of cocaine. The evidence at trial established that Peoples then sold cocaine to his own customers in smaller quantities and used his proceeds to buy expensive cars.

Attempt to Use FBI Investigation of Antioch Police Officers to Defend Himself Denied

According to the judge’s opinion, “In the course of the federal law enforcement investigation in this case, the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (“ATF”) were assisted by officers from the Antioch Police Department in executing search warrants and evidence collection, the bulk of which occurred in 2018 and 2019. Since then, several Antioch police officers have been accused of, and indicted for various crimes, including civil rights violations and wire fraud.” (See related articles here and here)

During the court case, “Peoples insisted that the federal case against the Antioch officers was relevant because two members of the Antioch Police Department accused of misconduct were present at the search of Peoples’ home on April 30, 2019.”

The opinion continued, “The defendants previously filed a discovery motion to compel production of impeachment material related to Antioch police officers who assisted with the DEA and ATF investigation of the defendants in the instant case. That motion was denied.”

“An evidentiary hearing was set to determine threshold matters in relation to the motion. Having considered the parties’ briefs, witness testimony, and admitted exhibits from the hearing, the government’s motion is granted, and the defendants are prohibited from referencing the federal investigation of any Antioch police officers.”

The opinion provided background to Peoples’ claim and the judge’s denial.

“Anticipating the issue would reappear at trial, the government filed MIL No. 12 to prevent the defendants from referencing Antioch police misconduct in the presence of the jury without first establishing relevance for fear that this would result in undue prejudice to the government. Dkt. (Docket) 489. In response, Peoples suggested that witnesses and the DEA-6 report regarding the search of Peoples’ home, authored by DEA Agent Mikhail Job, identified Antioch officers accused of misconduct as having participated in the April 30, 2019, search of Peoples’ residence.

Shortly before the pretrial conference, Peoples submitted a supplemental opposition to MIL No. 12 with information he and the government had just learned. Dkt. 521. In that supplemental opposition, Peoples contended that Agent Job had identified Antioch Officer Morteza Amiri, who has since been indicted on wire fraud charges and civil rights violations, as having entered Peoples’ residence alone for five to ten minutes along with his police dog after the occupants had been cleared out and before the official search began. Peoples also suggested that Antioch Officer Kyle Smith, who allegedly exchanged racist texts with other Antioch officers, joined the search of Peoples’ home. The government filed a supplemental response contending that Agent Job received erroneous information from the DEA case agents and had mistakenly named the wrong Antioch officers on his DEA-6 report. Dkt. 528. According to the government, Officers Amiri and Smith were not present at the search of Peoples’ home but were participating in the contemporaneous search of Defendant Lorenzo Lee’s residence. At the pretrial conference, the threshold question of whether Amiri was present at the search of Peoples’ home remained unresolved. The only potential relevance of the Antioch officers’ misconduct turned on whether Amiri and/or Smith were present at Peoples’ residence such that Peoples could infer the police planted evidence.”

Furthermore, “Peoples failed to establish that a jury could reasonably find that Amiri was present at Peoples residence on April 30, 2019 by a preponderance of evidence. At the evidentiary hearing, both sides admitted several witnesses and exhibits, and the government’s evidence was considerably more persuasive. The government’s witnesses included several law enforcement agents who corroborated their version of the events on the day in question. The testimony of two Antioch officers, Kevin Tjahjadi and Brayton Milner, who participated in the search of Peoples’ residence, was particularly persuasive. Both stated unequivocally that neither Amiri nor Smith joined in that search. The Antioch Police Department CAD reports regarding the search of Peoples’ residence further supported this version of events, identifying only Tjahjadi and Milner as the participating officers.”

Martinez Diaz, 31, of Bay Point, California, was charged with three counts—conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B); possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B); and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B). The evidence at trial established, among other things, that on February 9, 2019, Martinez Diaz was transporting about 20 pounds of methamphetamine and one kilogram of cocaine through a residential neighborhood in Antioch, California, when he realized he was being followed by law enforcement—which knew about the drugs through intercepted calls. Martinez Diaz began driving erratically, briefly evading law enforcement and directing a co-conspirator to discard the drugs he was carrying in the bushes on a residential street. A short time later law enforcement located the drugs, which evidence at trial established had street retail values of $177,860 (methamphetamine) and $40,000 (cocaine). After Martinez Diaz was stopped by police and released with a traffic citation, he was intercepted on a call telling his supplier that he had seen law enforcement and discarded the drugs to avoid arrest. (See judge’s opinion)

Torres Garcia, 38, an illegal alien from Mexico, residing in Rio Dell, California, was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A). The evidence at trial showed that Torres Garcia was a Humboldt County drug trafficker, who used the nickname “Guero.” Torres Garcia received methamphetamine shipments on credit from a Fairfield, California-based drug supplier. On August 8, 2018, the Fairfield supplier attempted to send about 18 pounds of methamphetamine—valued at $158,000—to Torres Garcia in Humboldt County. DEA agents and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office intercepted the drug courier and seized the drugs during a vehicle stop on Highway 101 near Healdsburg, California. In February 2019, the DEA tracked Torres Garcia to a meeting in Windsor, California, where Torres Garcia delivered about $13,800 in cash to a courier for his drug supplier. Although he was present throughout the trial and listened to closing arguments, Torres Garcia absconded before the jury handed down its verdict; he is now a fugitive. (See judge’s opinion)

According to the judge’s opinion, “Luis Garcia-Torres, defendant, an alien who had previously been deported or removed from the United States to Mexico on or about May 19, 2016, was found in the Eastern District of Texas, said defendant not having received the express consent of the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security, the successor, pursuant to United States Code, Title 6, for re-application for admission to the United States, all in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a).”

Sentencing Hearing June 11, 2024

Judge Seeborg scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 11, 2024. Torres Garcia faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Martinez Diaz and Peoples each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for every count on which they were convicted. However, the defendants’ sentences will be imposed only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Pastor and Joseph Tartakovsky prosecuted the case with the assistance of Erick Machado. This prosecution is the result of an investigation led by the DEA Oakland Resident Office, with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the police departments in Fairfield, Antioch, Concord, and Oakland; the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office; and the California Highway Patrol.

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report.

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