Updated 06/27/2012 07:09 AM
Details of gun running, daily drug sales revealed in Jovita’s hearing
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New details related to last week's raid on a popular South Austin restaurant came to light in court Tuesday.
The two owners of Jovita's, and 16 others, were arrested in a multi-agency operation dubbed “Muerte Negra,” or “Black Death.”
More than just margaritas and Mexican food, the investigation claims Jovita’s owner Amado “Mayo” Pardo was selling heroin from the property of the popular South Austin music venue and restaurant.
In federal court Tuesday, FBI Special Agent Stephen Hause testified that Amado, Michael Martinez and 62-year-old Dionisio "Don" Sanchez were the primary leaders of the heroin distribution ring.
Three other defendants were allowed to go home on $10,000 bond, but the judge is holding Sanchez without bail, citing a previous felony conviction and charges of trafficking guns and drugs.
Witnesses testified that Sanchez and Martinez would come to Pardo property every day to pick up heroin and distribute it in East Austin, particularly at 906 Chote Street and 1145 Shady Lane.
While the ring had been under surveillance for nearly a year, agents began tapping thousands of phone calls in March.
Agent Hause testified that the three ring leaders were recorded on wire taps making gun deals with Mexican cartel members. While sometimes suspects talked freely, in other calls they would use code words, like “TVs” in place of the word “guns.”
The raid netted hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and over an ounce of heroin. Several 18-packs of heroin-filled balloons were discovered, each one carrying about $20 worth of the drug.
According to the federal indictments, the ring moved at least one kilogram of heroin in the last year, using Jovita’s as a cover.
Amado Pardo and Martinez have yet to appear before a judge. Amado’s wife, Amanda, will go before a judge sometime Wednesday. She too will ask the judge to allow her to go home from detention. In the meantime, Jovita's remains closed.
Mayo Pardo's detention hearing is now scheduled for Thursday. Others will appear in court Wednesday morning.