AUSTIN (KXAN) - The owner of the popular South Austin restaurant Jovita's was among 18 people arrested by federal and local agents on Thursday on charges accusing them of operating a heroin ring.
Amado Pardo, 64, was among those taken into custody after a raid at the restaurant on South First Street and at nearby residences sometime around 5:30 a.m. Police said Pardo was convicted of murder in 1972 and again in 1985. He served eight years on the second conviction.
"The investigation focused on the dismantling of the local cell of the Texas Syndicate prison gang," the Austin Police Department said in a news release.
"During the investigation, investigators were able to determine that large amounts of heroin were kept, sold, and distributed from several locations in and around Central Texas using the city of Austin as the base of their operations."
The raid was part of an investigation at 1619 S. First St. and a house in the 400 block of Milton Street. Eight other locations were also raided, police said. In all, police seized $1.5 million in assets, including the restaurant, weapons, vehicles and cash.
Police said 15 of the suspects were charged in a federal indictment that was unsealed Thursday with conspiracy to posses with intent to distribute heroin. The others are facing state felony charges for either possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute or possession of a controlled substance.
The raid was part of an extensive investigation involving the FBI, Austin police, the Travis County Sheriff's Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety. They dubbed it "Operation Muerte Negra."
"The investigation into this organization revealed that Mr. Amado Pardo, AKA 'Mayo,' led this criminal operation and was responsible for daily heroin trafficking," Austin police said. "The organized criminal drug operation was estimated to have daily sales between $3,400 to $6,250. Amado Pardo is the owner of Jovita's restaurant."
Neighbor Sandy Boyce says she woke up at five in the morning to the sounds of three or four explosions.
"SWAT was everywhere, they were fully armed. It looked like a military takeover," said Boyce. The explosions she heard were the sounds of SWAT agents blowing in the door to Pardo's home.
Agents were seen taking computers, boxes, and other items out of the home. Some also dug holes in the backyard as they searched for evidence of narcotics.
Others named in the federal indictments are:
- Jorge Carrillo, 44, of Lockhart
- Jose Pardo, 68, of Austin
- Amanda Pardo, 45, of Austin
- Tatiana Huang. 25, of Austin
- Michael Martinez, 66, of Austin
- Alfredo Alvarez, 62, of Austin
- David Sosa, 42, of Austin
- Lucy Estrada, 32, of Austin
- Dionicio Sanchez, 62, of Austin
- Chris Mier, 32, of Austin
- Terry Ayers, 65, of Austin
- Kilpatrick Wiliams, 46, of Austin
- Leah Day, 24, of Austin
- Jeffrey Finn, 45, of Shenandoah
Arrested on state charges were:
- Robert Reid Tissing, 25
- Samantha Jo Murphy, 20
- Jennifer Rose Abeyta, 22
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