A federal grand jury has indicted 15 people in connection to a heroin ring in South Austin, including Jovita’s owners Amado and Amanda Pardo.
Federal documents, unsealed Thursday, list Amado Pardo as the leader of the wholesale heroin distribution operation, which was run out of four properties, specifically 404 and 406 Milton Street, as well as 1615 and 1619 South First Street, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
During a press conference Thursday, officers with the Austin Police Department also said 64-year-old Amado was a 30-year member of the Texas Syndicate. Others within the drug ring also carry ties to the notorious prison gang.
Amado, dubbed the "Mayor of South Austin" by The Austin Chronicle in 2009, also has two murder convictions under his belt. Pardo was incarcerated for murder 1985, according to the Office of the Inspector General. He was released in 1987 after serving two years of an eight-year sentence. His supervision ended in 1992, the year Jovita's opened its doors for business.
The year-long, multi-agency investigation was named "Operation Muerta Negra," or "Black Death." According to a statement from Austin police, narcotics sales were conducted inside the restaurant with estimated daily sales between $3,400 to $6,250.
Federal agents arrested the Pardos early Thursday morning, when officers let off flash bangs at the couple’s home around 5 a.m., awaking many in the neighborhood.
“I ran out of my bedroom door and as I looked down the hallway to the front door, I saw red flashing lights and I thought, ‘Ah, someone’s died,’” neighbor Sandy Boyce said. “They evidently think they’re hiding something somewhere and he’s got plenty of space to hide it, so they were at Jovita’s. They were at the house across the street and these two houses on this property.”
Agents then seized and searched the Pardo properties, including Jovita’s. Armed with pick axes and drug-sniffing canines, officers were seen carrying large black trash bags full of assets from the Pardo homes and restaurant.
In all, $1.5 million in property and $38,000 in cash were seized from Thursday's raid.
Sandy Cazares lives two doors down from the Pardos. She says her long-time neighbor, seemed like a decent guy.
"Friendly. He would say hello, I would say hello. He would ask how you're doing," she said.
Of the 18 total arrested, 15 defendants were federally indicted. Those 15 defendants face from 10 years to life in prison if convicted and are all currently in federal custody.
Here’s a list of those federally indicted for possession of heroin with the intent to distribute, from the U.S. Attorney General’s Office:
Amado Pardo, 64, of Austin
Jorge Carrillo, 44, of Lockhart
Jose Pardo, 68, of Ausitn
Amanda Pardo, 45, of Austin
Tatiana Huang, 25, of Austin
Michael Martinez. 66, of Austin
Alfredo Alvarez, 62, of Austin
David Sosa, 42, of Austin
Lucy Estrada, 32, of Austin
Dionicio Sanchez, 62, of Austin
Chris Mier, 32, of Austin
Terry Ayers, 65, of Austin
Kilpatrick Williams, 46, of Austin
Leah Day, 24, of Austin
Jeffrey Finn, 45, of Shenandoah
Here's a list of those charged with either possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute or possession of a controlled substance, both state jail felonies, from the Austin Police Department:
Robert Reid Tissing, 25
Samantha Jo Murphy, 20
Jennifer Rose Abeyta, 23
One suspect, Bryan Kelly Harwell, remains at large but there is a warrant out for his arrest.
For now, Jovita’s will remain closed, a shock to those who are used to the South Austin staple.
"I've grown up in this neighborhood and had no idea, this is huge," one resident said.
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