by Kim Powell
MIDLAND - Federal and state authorities seized 1.5 kilograms of both cocaine and methamphetamine, 12 firearms, and at least $127,000 during a multi-agency year-long investigation. "This is not something that any one agency can do. It was a collaborative effort by law enforcement here in the Permian Basin," Will Glaspy, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge, said.
Authorities say out of the 33 warrants, they were able to make 23 arrests between two separate drug trafficking groups. One of the groups, whose ringleader is 33-year-old Brandon Derington from Midland, allegedly used two other individuals who would travel to California to purchase meth. They would then use their personal vehicles or hire commercial truck drivers to bring the meth back to the Permian Basin.
"The interesting facts about this is that the organization as a whole was using social media to communicate in conducting their criminal activities," Glaspy said.
The second drug ring was allegedly run by 30-year-old Andrew Cortez of Midland--a co-owner of Alfredo's Paleteria.
"Cortez utilized this business for many of his cocaine sales over the past year," Glaspy explained.
Investigators also discovered that his brother, Albert Cortez, was involved and it is believed the two used the family business as fronts for cocaine distribution.
Between both drug organizations, five of the suspects were already in jail and seven are still at large.
"It is very important that the crooks understand we're going to work together. Law enforcement will work together and we're going to come after you, so get the hell out, stay away," Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter said.