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Undercover Probe Busts Alleged Drug Dealers In Poway, San Marcos, Ramona

A yearlong undercover investigation targeting drug-dealing at four North County secondary schools culminated today in the arrests of six minors and 10 adults.

prescription drugs

Above: prescription drugs

During the probe, youthful deputies posed as students at Abraxas, Mission Hills, Poway and Ramona high schools, and were able to buy narcotics at the latter three campuses, according to sheriff's officials.

The types of illicit substances purchased included heroin, cocaine, marijuana, oxycodone and hydrocodone.

As a result of the investigation, dubbed "Operation 'A' Team,'' deputies and agents with the Narcotics Task Force and North County Regional Gang Task Force served 19 arrest warrants — nine for current and former students at the four schools, and 10 to adults who allegedly sold drugs to the plainclothes personnel.

In addition to the juvenile suspects, whose names were withheld because they are underage, the following adults were arrested this morning:

21-year-old Jesse Dean Escalante, who already was in custody at Vista Jail on fraud charges; Maxwell Gaffney, 19, of Ramona; Ramon Kelly, 45, of Vista; Skylor McGee, 20, of Ramona; Kevin Ernesto Meza, 18, of San Marcos; Johny Viet Nguyen, 18, of Poway; Milton Ortena, 19, of San Marcos; Christopher Payne, 18, of Ramona; Edwin Sanchez, 19, of San Marcos; and Philip M. Silva, 25, of San Diego.

The following three suspects remain at large: Troy Gagliano, 22, of Poway; Erik Johnson, 18, of Poway; and Jesus Zurita, 18, of San Marcos.

All but one of the juveniles were taken into custody at their high schools.

In addition to disrupting narcotics sales at the campuses, the investigation "provided intelligence on larger drug suppliers in the area,'' according to Sheriff Bill Gore.

"The San Diego County Sheriff's Department and NTF are pursuing these leads and will continue the investigation,'' he said. "The take-away from today is this: if you want to buy illegal drugs, you very well could be talking to a deputy sheriff.''

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