4 charged with 12 felonies; search nets drugs, guns, cash

The Berkeley Police Department arrested four people in two East Oakland apartments earlier this month in connection with large amounts of drugs and cash, and several firearms. Image source: Google Maps

The Berkeley Police Department arrested four people in east Oakland earlier this month in connection with large amounts of drugs and cash, and the possession of five firearms, one of which had been reported stolen. Image source: Google Maps

A Berkeley Police Department operation in east Oakland earlier this month resulted in the arrests of four people who were charged with 12 felonies, and led to the seizure of more than 300 marijuana plants, more than $100,000 in cash, three handguns and two rifles.

All four Oakland residents remain in custody at this time, according to the Alameda County sheriff’s department.

According to court documents, the Berkeley Police Department served a search warrant on Jan. 15 at at 1225 and 1228 91st Ave. in Oakland.

At 1225 91st, the home of Bruno Ortiz, 31, and Oscar Mariscal, 27, according to police, authorities recovered about three kilograms of cocaine packaged for sale; about 14 ounces of marijuana packaged for sale; 58 marijuana plants weighing 37.5 pounds; three handguns; one SKS semi-automatic rifle; and one Saiga/Canta assault rifle.

Police said, according to court documents, that one of the guns had been reported stolen.

In the other apartment, which police said was the home of Leonides Mejia, 34, and Patrica Galvan, 27, police recovered 269 marijuana plants weighing 77.7 pounds; about one pound of marijuana that had been packaged for sale; and $113,435 in cash.

Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats declined to comment on how the investigation came about.

The department’s investigation is continuing and “we don’t have any specific information to share with regards to details in this case,” she said, via email. She added, in response to a question from Berkeleyside, that “it is not uncommon for narcotics investigations to take us into other jurisdictions in the region, as drug dealing operations don’t necessarily follow jurisdictional lines.”

According to the Jan. 17 complaint filed against the four defendants, all four were charged with one felony count of possession for sale of more than one kilogram of cocaine, along with a firearm clause. They were also charged with two felony counts of possession of marijuana for sale, along with a firearm clause.

The fourth and fifth felony counts against the defendants charged that they cultivated marijuana; the counts also included firearm clauses.

The district attorney’s office charged two felony counts related to the possession of cocaine while armed with the rifles, which include a special allegation related to state prison eligibility. There were also three felony counts related to the possession of cocaine while armed with the handguns.

Another felony charge was related to the possession of an assault weapon, and the final charge was related to the stolen gun.

According to the sheriff’s department, Mejia, Mariscal and Ortiz were arrested on Jan. 15; Galvan was arrested two days later. Mejia, Galvan and Ortiz are being held at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin on a bail of $510,000 each. They are scheduled to enter their pleas after arraignment on Feb. 8 at 9 a.m. in Department 112 of the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in downtown Oakland.

Mariscal is being held with a bail of $1.155 million and is being held in the infirmary at Santa Rita Jail. He was scheduled to have entered a plea on Jan. 28 at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse.

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  • bingo

    Is it common for BPD to take on/contribute to OPD cases? That’s pretty deep in Oakland. Seems like we have enough local crime to keep them busy. Speaking of which, out of all the things that make our city less safe (holdups, property thefts, B&E, etc.) the last thing I worry about are plants deemed legal by several states (not the Feds, though). I know there are tenuous connections to be drawn there, and guns cited in the article, but this seems like a misallocation of resources on several levels.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    Until someone gets shot while these thugs are protecting their plants (most likely a innocent bystander or a child living next door)

  • jjohannson

    Three kilos of coke, six weapons including a stolen semi-automatic, and over $100K in cash. These folks aren’t trying to treat migraines.

  • Just Sayin

    I’d imagine they were doing some sort of ‘business’ in Berkeley.

  • The Sharkey

    Possibly, but bingo makes a good point.
    If that was how BPD got involved, it would be nice for BPD to at least acknowledge that the reason that Berkeley resources were diverted into East Oakland was because of local drug sales here in town.

  • The Sharkey

    Unless altered with aftermarket parts, the SKS semi-auto rifle has a fixed 10-round magazine and would be legal under the Federal assault weapon ban. The Saiga may be legal or not, depending on magazine size and manufacturer. Given that the majority of their guns were hand guns and at least one of the guns was stolen, it seems doubtful that an “assault weapon” ban would have done anything to disarm these crooks.

    I am surprised that they listed the types of rifles rather than the types of handguns, since handguns are significantly more likely to be used for murder than rifles.


  • The Sharkey

    Unless they had some sort of bizarre bolt-action pistol or were packing cowboy-style revolvers, all their guns were semi-automatic.

  • Crime doesn’t stop at the Oakland border. How easy that would make things if it did. Since I’ve been in my neighborhood, OPD has raided an apartment on my block (OPD helicopter was here too) and the Fremont PD conducted a stakeout when they were looking for a bad guy. Those are just two instances and I’m certain there are many more I don’t know about.

    BPD needs a collaborative relationship with all bay area law enforcement agencies that allows everyone to get their bad guy. I’m glad they got these guys. BPD would not have been involved if they weren’t connected to crimes in Berkeley…and no, we can’t have the details of an ongoing investigation before it reaches trial, that’s how the process works.

  • bgal4

    Absolutely correct, BPD works with OPD all the time, that is how many Berkeley cases are solved.

  • Ah the issue of cannabis. There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance on that topic around here.

  • I’m happy to hear this. Oakland needs all the help it can get. Crime doesn’t stop at city borders. Criminals in Oakland are always going to be potential criminals in Berkeley. Keep up the good work BPD.

  • The Sharkey

    But if BPD officers are going to be conducting business in Oakland and Richmond, why are we paying them higher wages than Police officers in Oakland and Richmond? If it’s share and share alike, shouldn’t they all have roughly similar wages?

  • I think that question should be geared towards the cities of Richmond and Oakland, not Berkeley (that is, why aren’t those cities paying their cops more?). The most likely answer is that despite Berkeley’s current deficit, in general, Berkeley is (and has historical been) in better fiscal shape than Richmond and Oakland.

  • The Sharkey

    They aren’t paying them more because they don’t have to.

    Despite being more dangerous cities and paying their Police less, they are still able to fill their positions.

    Why should we be paying any of our public employees more than we have to? The median income of Berkeley residents is around $30-$35k, and a Police officer’s starting salary is almost twice that and includes a pension and patinum-level health care. I’d rather see lower wages and more cops on the street than work under some fuzzy assumption that paying our Police more means they’re “better” than the Police in other nearby cities.

  • Perhaps there is something to the logic of paying our police more means they’re going to be “better.” In the last decade alone, OPD has been the subject of countless controversies and lawsuits alleging police misconduct (granted, i’m sure some of those are frivolous, but some do have merit). They were incredibly close to a federal takeover due to incompetence. Now they’re paying for a consultant to help out.

    We’re not seeing anything like that in Berkeley. Our biggest controversies? Trying to prevent bad press and using unnecessary resources to track down the chief’s son’s cell phone. These pale in comparison to Oakland’s issues (I don’t know much about Richmond’s police, I’ve never lived there).

    On the other hand, I do agree with you to an extent that our police are a bit overpaid. A Police Officer Step A starts at $92,832. A recruit in training even gets $71,196 (http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/uploadedFiles/Human_Resources/Level_3_-__General/ClassificationAndSalaryListingByTitle.pdf). That is shockingly high. They should be paid very well as the job can be dangerous requires odd hours, but I think the current salaries are bit much. At the same time, however, I don’t see a way for the City at this point to ask for a salary reduction unless our financial situation was more dire. The union would have a field day.

  • bgal4

    Oakland cops are also well compensated. Oakland is 4x the size of Berkeley with a history of violent crime that only a couple of pockets in Berkeley have experience with.

    Incompetence or politics? Berkeley PD has its share of issues.

  • The Sharkey

    Oakland is a unique case with problems that go back generations. There are dozens of similar-sized Cities to Berkeley throughout California that pay their cops significantly less than we do and have had none of the problems of OPD. We may not be able to renegotiate the salaries of current officers without declaring bankruptcy, but we could probably institute salary freezes and lower the starting salary of new hires.

  • I’ll agree to that!

  • guest

    Berkeley requires it’s police officers to have completed 60 college semester hours in police science, public administration, psychology or a related field. Oakland requires a High School Diploma and Academy Training. I’d rather my local cops have the college education. Maybe that’s why Berkeley cops don’t have such a bad reputation like Oakland cops do. I bet Oakland spends far more on settling it’s bad police behavior lawsuits than Berkeley does on police salaries.

  • EBGuy

    Fair enough. Oakland police officer base pay $70k + 0.015(Educational incentive for AA)*$70k = $71,050. Starting salary for a Berkeley police officer ($92.8k) is still 30% more than that of a similarly educated Oakland officer.

  • bingo

    I grasp that, and applaud collaboration. I just wonder aloud if there is a formal mechanism for assessing deployment of resources locally vs. aiding surrounding precincts? Is there a limit to what %age of time or fraction of force can be channeled this way? How do they evaluate priorities in Berkeley vs. those that support Berkeley safety more generally. Now that i’m catching up on comments, I see that my remark at the end got amplified and speared 1,000 times over. I had really intended to open this inquiry, which is a legitimate one in my view.

  • bingo

    Right, had I forseen how this comment would have been amplified and interpreted 100 different ways, I wouldn’t have made it. Please see the substantive point regarding evaluation protocol I outlined above for West Berkeley. Of course, there is always the issue of speculative high-level crime vs. things that are actually taking place day-to-day. It’s a question of the best use of precious police resources, and not an obvious one (to me at least). There are 20 or so snarky posts here vilifying me, but I believe the concept of evaluating deployment is not trivial matter.

  • bgal4

    This was likely a DTF, Drug Task Force, planned early morning raid.

  • Guest

    Perhaps the BPD could be induced to bust the Oakland city government? Because those people really oughta be arrested.

  • malcolmkyle

    An appeal to all Prohibitionists:

    Most of us know that individuals who use illegal drugs are going to get high—no matter what, so why do you not prefer they acquire them in stores that check IDs and pay taxes? Gifting the market in narcotics to ruthless criminals, foreign terrorists, and corrupt law enforcement officials is seriously compromising our future.

    Why do you wish to continue with a policy that has proven itself to be a poison in the veins of our once so “proud & free” nation? Even if you cannot bear the thought of people using drugs, there is absolutely nothing you, or any government, can do to stop them. We have spent 40 years and trillions of dollars on this dangerous farce; Prohibition will not suddenly and miraculously start showing different results. Do you actually believe you may personally have something to lose If we were to begin basing our drug policy on science & logic instead of ignorance, hate and lies?

    Maybe you’re a police officer, a prison guard, or a local/national politician. Possibly you’re scared of losing employment, overtime pay, the many kickbacks, and those regular fat bribes. But what good will any of that do you once our society has followed Mexico over the dystopian abyss of dismembered bodies, vats of acid, and marauding thugs carrying gold-plated AK-47s with leopard-skinned gunstocks?

    Kindly allow us to forgo the next level of your sycophantic prohibition-engendered mayhem!

    Prohibition prevents regulation: legalize, regulate, and tax!

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I agree that marijuana should be legalized, especially so that we can end the ridiculous farce of medical MJ.

    These guys had a kilo of cocaine on them. That one… I’m not so sure about. I think the state does have an interest in protecting the public from substances harmful enough to make people so sick that we end up paying their health care costs.

    But, by my reasoning, tobacco, pre-diabetic foods, and a host of other bad things should be disallowed and yet are not. I’d like to see the drug dealers and thugs lose their market, but simply don’t know what the costs would be. And violent criminals would surely move on to some other market — home invasions? kidnapping? — so it isn’t clear to me whether things would be net worse or better.

  • Guest

    How far do you want to take your stance? OK, cannabis, fine. But heroin? Cocaine? Meth? Is there anything at all that you would prohibit? Because if there isn’t, then get ready for an enormous epidemic of drug abuse, as all of the people whose consumption has been constrained by the legal status or availability of these drugs get whatever they want. And this won’t be merely some potheads bumbling around – people will die, lots of them. While heroin use may be compatible with a discreet lifestyle, many users lose control and become incapacitated by their addiction. Cocaine and meth are far worse – especially meth – because they are toxic and can rapidly destroy an individual’s health. Many people find them so pleasurable that they use them to excess, and they will spend everything they have to get more (cocaine is less dangerous than meth because it is so much more expensive – most people can’t afford to poison themselves).

    So if you think legalization is a good idea, think it through drug by drug. Don’t make the mistake of treating them as if they are all the same, and don’t make the mistake of shrugging off the likely consequences – responsible people will laugh you out of the room.