Deputies seize nearly $44K possibly linked to drug cartel

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

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

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

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

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

"This is the first money laundering operation that we haveencountered 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," headded, "and that was located in the insulation of an attic."

The sheriff said when officers searched the home inSouthside last week, they found money all over the place and not much elseinside.

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

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

"The DEA is supposed to be here [Monday] to pick up all theevidence, 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 questionson this would have to be directed to them."

The sheriff claims deputies did find some evidence thatlinks this operation to the drug cartel, but he insists that is all he can saygiven 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'staking place. Yeah, we hit them for this much, but that's certainly not goingto stop them."

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

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