Sheriff revamps report of drug bust
January 10, 2014
By CCN STAFF
Details of a December drug raid provided by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department have undergone alterations since Sheriff Ian Parkinson complained in a letter to radio station KVEC about CalCoastNews’ reporting of the incident.
Parkinson’s letter to station general manager Ron Roy said he thought his deputies had received “unfair criticism” as a result of CalCoastNews’ coverage.
On Dec. 4, multiple agencies led by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department served search warrants at 13 locations, which led to the arrests of 15 people. The department released information alleging that Adrian De Martino Morales, 24, and Aldo De Martino Morales, 22, were part owners of the Cinco de Mayo restaurant in San Luis Obispo.
That resulted in a major drop in business, said the son of the owner and the restaurant manager Carlos Jimenez.
Jimenez disagrees with the assertion that the Morales are part owners of the business. He said several of those arrested worked part time at his restaurant and are related to his girlfriend, but they are not owners, and are not listed on any of the restaurant’s documents, as sheriff’s reports alleged.
In a series of emails exchanged following Parkinson’s letter, details of the raid of the restaurant and Carlos Jimenez’s home have repeatedly changed.
According to warrant property receipts, no drugs were found in Jimenez’s home or restaurant. Outside the home, officers said they discovered 9.4 grams of marijuana and 4.7 grams of green pills which belonged to the adult son of his girlfriend, according to property receipts — signed by one investigator and witnessed by a second.
In his Dec. 30 letter to KVEC, Parkinson claims investigators found seven ounces of heroin inside the residence. The department now states no drugs were found inside the home.
On Jan. 8, sheriff’s spokesperson Tony Cippolla said in an email that the investigators had a scale at the scene and weighed the green pills, which he said tested positive for heroin. Cipolla said the investigators at the scene wrote the wrong weight by accident, and should have noted the pills weighed six ounces.
In addition, the investigators forgot to log in what they alleged was an ounce of black tar heroin, Cipolla said.
In Parkinson’s letter to KVEC, he chastised CalCoastNews for referring to the law enforcement personnel who conducted the raid as “deputies.” While the sheriff’s department coordinated the raid and led the investigations, multiple agencies assisted in the morning raids, a common practice in a large sting operation.
Parkinson also claims that no local officers were involved in the raid at the Cinco de Mayo Restaurant. Parkinson wrote that the search warrant was served by a team from “Homeland Security Investigations/Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
The warrant was requested by San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Detective Nick Fontecchio, according to the warrant.
Several local attorneys said the search was based on a state warrant and was required to be served by “sheriff, police officer, or peace officer in San Luis Obispo, Monterey or Riverside counties.” Those attorneys agree, based on Parkinson’s letter, that the warrant was not legally served.
Cipolla fired back on Jan. 8, asserting that a district attorney’s investigator served the warrant on the restaurant, and as such it was properly served.
In the past, sheriff’s officials have threatened reporters or tried to derail CalCoastNews reporting when it questions their actions.
Parkinson, a former San Luis Obispo police officer, announced his candidacy for the sheriff’s post in March 2009 with a press release prepared by the late Rob Bryn, at the time employed as spokesman for the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department.
Bryn defended his actions and said he sent the e-mail announcement regarding Parkinson’s intentions late at night from his home computer.
“I’m not going to be [Parkinson’s] press secretary nor am I going to be his campaign manager. What I do off duty is my own business, and it’s nobody’s business who I do or do not support in a political situation,” Bryn said, adding, “You need to report this appropriately, because I know how you write. If you want to get into this, I’ll be happy to get into it with you. And we can become the biggest enemies in the United States. I’ll be happy to do that.”
Immediately after that, CalCoastNews ceased receiving press notices or return phone calls from the sheriff’s department, a virtual blackout that lasted several years.
In October 2010, during Parkinson’s first year in office, a CalCoastNews article reported specific details of events leading up to and including the kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Dystiny Myers.
The following day, Bryn issued a press release for the sheriff’s department, refuting every element of the CalCoastNews article. The Tribune and KSBY echoed Bryn’s version, and a local judge placed a gag order on all those connected with the trial.
Six months later, when the suspects first appeared in court for preliminary hearings, testimony from a variety of witnesses — including sheriff’s investigators — confirmed every single detail of the CalCoastNews article.
KVEC radio talk show host Dave Congalton said on the air that “in 35-plus years of journalism and broadcasting, I’ve never seen anything like this.”