Undercover investigators arrested nine people this week after using a suspected heroin dealer's phone to take purchase orders, Modesto police reported Thursday.
The nine arrested during the narcotics sting and the suspected drug dealer are Modesto residents. The narcotics investigators hope the arrests will make it tougher for heroin dealers to find buyers of the drug.
In the operation, the Police Department's Narcotics Enforcement Team sold the suspects fake heroin. They used Tootsie Roll candy, because it looks similar to black tar heroin, said Sgt. Brian Findlen, a police spokesman.
This was the second time in two years the narcotics team used a suspected dealer's phone to sell candy to heroin buyers. Police arrested 13 people in last year's operation.
Police said heroin addicts will do anything to get the drug and that their addiction overcomes rational thought.
This week's operation began about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, when the narcotics team spotted David Sangster, 38, driving away from a suspected drug house in downtown Modesto.
The investigators conducted a traffic stop at Ninth Street and Coldwell Avenue. They discovered Sangster was on parole and searched his vehicle.
Sangster was arrested on suspicion of possession of methadone without a prescription, being under the influence of a controlled substance and violating parole.
Methadone is a medication used by heroin addicts to wean themselves off the drug, but it's illegal to possess methadone without a prescription.
The investigators searched the vehicle and found Sangster's cell phone.
It started ringing, so one of the officers posed as an associate of Sangster and started arranging drug deals.
"Apparently Mr. Sangster had a lucrative business that kept our investigators very busy trying to keep up with his schedule," Findlen said.
Arrests come quickly
About four hours after Sangster's arrest, at 4:30 p.m., the investigators met with the first suspected buyer, Christopher Franklin, 30, at Paradise Avenue and North Martin Luther King Drive in west Modesto. Findlen said Franklin tried to buy $250 of fake heroin to sell the drug to others.
Franklin was arrested on suspicion of attempted possession of heroin for the purpose of sales. All the other suspected buyers were arrested on suspicion of attempted possession of heroin.
About 6:30 p.m. at the same west Modesto location, the investigators met with the second suspected buyer, 32-year-old Steven Ferguson. He tried to buy $40 of fake heroin, Findlen said.
About 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, the investigators met with Thomas Moore, 49, in the 1800 block of Clayton Avenue, in central Modesto. Findlen said Moore tried to buy $20 of fake heroin, but he paid the investigator $80 because he owed Sangster $60.
About 11:30 a.m., the investigators met with Israel Soto, 36, on Carver Road and West Orangeburg Avenue in central Modesto. Findlen said Soto tried to buy $40 worth of fake heroin. He paid an investigator with $20 and 20 syringes.
Findlen said the investigators went back to Paradise and North Martin Luther King about 3:15 p.m. to meet with 26-year-old Craig Kelly, who tried to buy $90 of fake heroin.
About 10:45 a.m. Thursday, the investigators met with Jose Avila, 47, in the 2000 block of Robertson Road in west Modesto. Findlen said Avila tried to buy $20 worth of heroin.
About 11:30 a.m., the investigators met with Danny Jenkins, 29, near Tenaya Drive and Thrasher Avenue in south Modesto. Findlen said Jenkins left his adult disabled sister unattended to try to buy $20 of fake heroin. Jenkins was also arrested on suspicion of abuse of a dependent adult.
About 1:20 p.m., investigators met with John Thomas on Pelton and Colorado avenues in west Modesto. Findlen said Thomas tried to buy $10 of fake heroin, but he came up short and paid with $9.65.
About 1:40 p.m., Findlen said the investigators met with their last customer, Larry Garza, 46, who tried to buy $20 of fake heroin.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.