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Pair face charges in cocaine bust

By Janice Gregorson

gregor@postbulletin.com

WABASHA -- Bail has been set at $100,000 for each of two men charged in connection with what authorities describe as a major drug operation in Plainview.

Daniel Lara, 26, no known address, and Gerardo Ramierz, 21, of Plainview, were arraigned before Judge Gerard Ring on Monday. Both were arrested Thursday by agents from the Southeast Minnesota Narcotics Task Force. A third man, Fidel Loya Zapata, 20, of Plainview, is charged by complaint with one count of first-degree controlled substance crime. No court date has been set.

At the time of the drug bust, narcotics agents described it as one of the biggest in the region and involved the sale of half a kilo of cocaine.

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According to the criminal complaints, much of the information leading authorities to Lara and Ramierz was developed following a drug arrest in Rochester two weeks earlier in what police have dubbed Operation Rodeo.

In that case, 10 people were arrested. Seven have been charged, including the two named in the Wabasha criminal complaint as helping lead authorities to Lara and Ramierz. They are Martin Jermaine Billue, 30, of Rochester, and Emmanuel Alexander Batista, 19, of Rochester. Both are charged in Rochester with the sale of cocaine.

The complaints against Lara and Ramierz say a confidential informant reported seeing a large quantity of cocaine about June 16 at a farm near Millville and had gone to that farm with Batista and Billue. They bought half a kilo of cocaine at that time for $13,500. A portion of that cocaine was found in Batista's apartment during a search on July 9, the complaint said.

The complaint said Billue told Rochester police he had made three buys of a half kilo each from dealers in Plainview.

On July 18, officers from the Rochester Police Department, Olmsted County Sheriff's Department and Wabasha County Sheriff's Department met to do a controlled purchase of half a kilo of cocaine from two men in Plainview. Billue and Batista agreed to aid in the purchase, the complaint said.

Batista made arrangements to buy the cocaine. He was equipped with a listening device and given $14,000 in serialized "buy money," and he and Billue went to an apartment in Plainview.

Batista went inside and made the purchase, and the drug was given to officers waiting outside. The cocaine was packaged in a brick shape and secured with duct tape, the complaint said. Police then entered the apartment. The complaint said it was occupied by Zapata. The complaint said he directed officers to a pillow inside his bedroom closet, where the buy money was found.

He then agreed to call his supplier, identified as Ramierz. The call was recorded. The complaint said Ramierz agreed to come to Zapata's residence to pick up the money. Zapata also asked Ramierz if Batista could purchase another half kilo of cocaine the following day. Ramierz indicated he could provide the cocaine.

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Police found a piece of paper with a list of names and dollar amounts on it, a BB gun under the mattress of the bed, a small balance scale and a marijuana pipe during a search of Zapata's residence.

Authorities said they also found 10 grams of cocaine in the glove compartment of Lara's car.

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