Deputies seize nearly $44K possibly linked to drug cartel - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Deputies seize nearly $44K possibly linked to drug cartel

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Hector Valero (Source: Independence County Sheriff's Department) Hector Valero (Source: Independence County Sheriff's Department)

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Independence County sheriff's deputies seized thousands of dollars from a home in Southside and may have uncovered a possible link to the Mexican drug cartels.

Narcotics division officers received information recently about a money laundering operation at a home, located at 46 Camp Tahkodah Road about two blocks from Southside High School. When the officers served a search warrant on January 9, they ended up seizing armfuls of cash.

"During the search we recovered approximately $44,000 in cash and other items of evidence that were also taken into custody," Sheriff Steve Jeffery said.

Jeffery said this is the first time that his officers have busted a money laundering scheme related to drugs, but added they have recovered larger amounts of money in the past.

"This is the first money laundering operation that we have encountered here. Now we have seized large sums of money in drug raids before, but this was strictly what looked like a cash house drop-off," Jeffery said.

"I guess the largest seizure in the past was $60,000," he added, "and that was located in the insulation of an attic."

The sheriff said when officers searched the home in Southside last week, they found money all over the place and not much else inside.

"The house basically had no furniture," Jeffery explained. "It wasn't really used as a home, strictly for wrapping and packing money."

Deputies arrested the home's owner, Hector Valero, as well as unnamed woman who lived there, too. Neither suspect is facing charges at the moment because the Independence County Sheriff's Department has handed over the case to the DEA, or Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The DEA is supposed to be here [Monday] to pick up all the evidence, the cash, the case file – and it will be turned over to them," Jeffery said. "Any help that we can give them, we will. Any further questions on this would have to be directed to them."

The sheriff claims deputies did find some evidence that links this operation to the drug cartel, but he insists that is all he can say given the pending DEA investigation.

"We took $44,000 out of circulation, out of the drug dealers' hands," Jeffery said, "but now $44,000 is not a drop in the bucket of what's taking place. Yeah, we hit them for this much, but that's certainly not going to stop them."

Because of the DEA's involvement, the sheriff is also unable to say what would happen to the two suspects currently in police custody or what charges they might face.

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