Update: FBI, APD in Joint Operation Near Jovita’s Restaurant in South Austin
Update (2 p.m.): Austin police and additional law enforcement agencies are holding a press conference at 3:30 p.m. to discuss "Operation Muerta Negra" (Black Death), the code name for this morning's bust.
"The agencies executed nine search warrants and 19 people were arrested in connection with the year-long investigation," police write in a press release. That's four additional arrests than the 15 described by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Update (1 p.m.): 15 Arrested in Connection With Heroin Distribution Ring
15 ARRESTED ON FEDERAL CONSPIRACY CHARGE IN AUSTIN-BASED HEROIN DISTRIBUTION OPERATION Federal, state and local law enforcement have arrested 15 individuals, including ringleader 64-year-old Amado Pardo, in connection with an Austin-based heroin distribution operation … That joint announcement was made this morning by United States Attorney Robert Pitman, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Armando Fernandez, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Javier Pena, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven C. McCraw and Bruce Toney, Inspector General of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. All 15 defendants are charged by a federal grand jury indictment, returned on Tuesday and unsealed today, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin. According to the indictment, the defendants conspired since May 2011 to distribute more than one kilogram of heroin. Upon conviction, each defendant faces between ten years and life in federal prison. The indictment also seeks the criminal forfeiture of the interests of Amado Pardo, and his wife Amanda, in four Austin properties allegedly used to facilitate the drug distribution operation, namely 404 and 406 Milton Street as well as 1615 and 1619 South First Street. Upon conviction of the drug conspiracy count, the defendants face between ten years and life in federal prison. All of the defendants remain in federal custody at this time. This investigation was conducted by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Austin Police Department, Travis County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Office of the Inspector General. This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Guess.
Original Post (10:46 a.m.): Several news outlets are reporting this morning that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with Austin Police and other agencies, are executing searches on two homes just off of South First Street, near Jovita’s Mexican Restaurant.
KVUE describes a scene with “dozens” of federal agents and police executing a search at two properties early this morning, reportedly owned by Jovita’s proprietors Amanda and Amado Pardo. The station adds that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials are part of the operation.
The Austin American-Statesman reports “officials could be seen searching with dogs and pickaxes the backyards of [the] homes” nearby, on Milton Street. Reports are conflicting as to whether or not the actual restaurant had been searched.
KUT News will update this story as it develops.