A few blocks away from Chapman University, on Aug. 20, 2018, undercover police watched the driver of a late-model Hyundai Elantra rental three times pull into an auto-repair garage and leave without obtaining any repairs.
The reason for such activity wasn’t a mystery to the FBI.
Tracking Mexico-based organized crime’s heroin and cocaine distribution in New York led agents to Orange County and a nondescript industrial street in the city of Orange.
Aerial support tailed the driver of the Hyundai as he employed countersurveillance measures that included getting on the northbound 57 freeway near Angel Stadium, taking an off-ramp and immediately reversing to enter the southbound side of the road.
Road-flipping might normally indicate someone with a lousy sense of direction, but in this situation, the agents accurately considered it “indicative of activity conducted by drug-trafficking and money-laundering organization members in order to determine whether anyone is conducting surveillance of them.”
An Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) deputy eventually stopped the Hyundai on the northbound 57 and claimed he observed the driver’s hands shaking and sweating as he handed over his Virginia license.
When the deputy asked Keith Sawyer to exit the vehicle, he sped off toward Diamond Bar, where he stopped in a parking lot, opened the trunk, grabbed a white box and tossed it in the bushes near a highway retaining wall.
That box contained 3 kilograms of cocaine, according to the FBI.
Meanwhile, officers obtained a search warrant to enter Enrique Carmen Moreno’s auto-repair shop and found 343 $100 bills, 131 $50 bills, 1,003 $20 bills, 91 $10 bills and 145 $5 bills for a total nearing $63,000.
Both Sawyer and Moreno have criminal records in other states, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reports.
Having labeled the money illegal narcotics-trafficking revenue, DOJ prosecutors are now in the process of taking ownership of the cash.
If nobody steps forward by June 13, it’s likely U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford will grant the government’s request inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; earned six dozen other reporting awards; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.