Two heroin overdoses last year in Simi Valley — where abuse of heroin and prescription drugs has gained national headlines — have prompted detectives there to focus on the source of the deadly opiate.
Police uncovered a so-called heroin delivery service operating in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Moorpark, and officers arrested three people this week in connection with the illicit drug ring, according to the Simi Valley Police Department.
Elsewhere in Ventura County, overdoses have led to swift arrests. A 16-year-old boy’s death from heroin in Thousand Oaks led to manslaughter charges against his suspected dealer, a 19-year-old man. Thirteen others were arrested after a Thousand Oaks man died of a heroin overdose in November.
The crackdown comes amid a surge in heroin deaths. The county saw 33 people die of heroin intoxication in 2015, a jump from 23 deaths in the previous year, according to coroner’s statistics cited by the Ventura County Star newspaper.
Police in Simi Valley said the heroin delivery service that was shut down this week operated via telephone dispatch. Customers placed an order by dialing a specific number, and a dispatcher directed them to a designated meeting spot, where a courier met the customer and handed over the heroin in exchange for cash.
The investigation was spurred by the Sept. 19 death of 26-year-old Tanner Fazli. Police responded to a Simi Valley home, found evidence of intravenous heroin abuse, and relied on Fazli’s friends to identify the delivery service he used to procure the drug.
Less than a month later, on Oct. 13, police responded to the overdose death of 26-year-old Pedro Zamora, another Simi Valley resident. Investigators eventually confirmed that he had injected heroin from the same delivery service that Fazli had used, police said in a statement.
After a three-month investigation involving undercover drug purchases, detectives fanned out Wednesday to locations in Simi Valley, Torrance and Fullerton. Three people were arrested.
Rosario Vargas, 35, a transient in Simi Valley, was suspected of being a courier in the delivery service, police said. He was booked on suspicion of possession of heroin and conspiracy.
Daniel Delgado, 28, was arrested in Anaheim and booked on suspicion of criminal conspiracy, police said. Delgado is a resident of Fullerton and was held on $20,000 bail.
Yoelmmi Sandoval, 29, of Fullerton was also booked on suspicion of criminal conspiracy.
Authorities in Ventura County have announced arrests following heroin overdoses. After the 16-year-old boy’s death on Sept. 9, detectives zeroed in on the 19-year-old man suspected of furnishing the boy with the drug.
Ross Cumming was arrested Dec. 21 and has pleaded not guilty to a felony count of involuntary manslaughter and a felony count of selling a controlled substance, according to court records. He’s being held on $100,000 bail, according to jail records.
The Nov. 24 heroin overdose of Robert Haupt, 46, has led to more than a dozen arrests. Two people — Paul Markas, 26, and Taylor Roberts, 22 — were arrested on suspicion of providing the heroin that was believed to be responsible for Haupt’s death. During the investigation, 11 others were arrested for various alleged violations, including possession of methamphetamine and prescription drugs.
At her first court appearance, Roberts pleaded not guilty to four felony charges including conspiracy to commit a crime and selling controlled substances. Markas pleaded not guilty to three felony counts including possession of a controlled substance for sale and a conspiracy charge, according to court records.
Both were being held in county lockup on $100,000 bail, according to jail records.