AUSTIN -- Dozens of FBI agents and Austin police officers executed a search warrant at a South Austin restaurant, as well as two houses nearby Thursday morning.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office - Western District of Texas, 64-year-old Amado "Mayo" Pardo has been arrested, accused of leading an Austin-based heroin distribution operation.
The U.S. Justice Department says he is one of 15 people arrested and charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of heroin. The Austin Police Department says 15 people are indicted federally. Four more people are facing state felony charges for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, or possession of a controlled substance, bringing the total number of arrest warrants issued in this case to 19.
The Austin Police Department says the one-year investigation, called Operation Muerta Negra, focused on dismantling the local chapter of the Texas Syndicate prison gang. Investigators say large amounts of heroin were sold and distributed throughout Central Texas.
Thursday morning authorities raided Jovita's Mexican restaurant at 1619 South First Street. Its owner is listed as Pardo's wife, Amanda Pardo. According to the restaurant's website, it opened in 1992 and offers food, drinks and live music. It was closed Thursday morning as officers searched the building.
Nearby in the 400 block of Milton Street, officers searched two homes. Agents say the Pardos also own both houses. Police shut down the street as they searched the homes and used two police dogs to help. Police were seen with shovels in the backyard of one of the homes.
Neighbors say they heard a loud bang at 5:30 a.m. Thursday. When they looked outside, they saw officers with guns marching down the street to the two homes.
According to the Travis County Appraisal District, Amanda Pardo is listed as the owner of Jovita's. TCAD lists her and her husband as the owners of the house at 404 Milton Street. TCAD lists Jovitas Inc. as the owner of 405 Milton Street.
According to the USAO, "the indictment also seeks the criminal forfeiture of the interests of Amado Pardo, and his wife Amanda, in four Austin properties allegedly used to facilitate the drug distribution operation, namely 404 and 406 Milton Street as well as 1615 and 1619 South First Street."
APD says the drug operation was run through the couple's restaurant, Jovita's, and had daily drug sales between $3,400 and $6,250.
As of Thursday afternoon, 18 suspects were in custody of U.S. Marshals. One is still at large. If convicted, each will face between 10 years to life in federal prison. Six of those suspects made an initial appearance before a federal judge Thursday.
Those with federal indictments are:
- Amado Pardo, 64
- Amanda Pardo, 45
- Jose Alvarado Pardo, 68
- Michael Botello Martinez, 63
- Leah Gail Day, 24
- Lucy Vigil Estrada, 32
- Jorge Manuel Carillo, 45
- Tatiana Shingie Huang, 25
- Christopher George Mier, 32
- David Green Sosa, 42
- Alfred Albertez Alvarez, 62
- Terry Lee Ayers, 65
- Dionicio Sanchez, 62
- Kilpatrick Williams, 45
- Jeffrey Scott Finn, 36
Those with state felony charges are:
- Samantha Murphy, 20
- Jennifer Rose Abeyta, 22
- Robert Reid Tissing, 25
- Bryan Kelly Harwell, 51
Police tell KVUE News and one of the suspects is a student at the University of Texas.
APD says multiple agencies helped with Operation Muerta Negra. The FBI, APD's Major Crime Task Force/Gang Suppression Unit, the Texas DPS, the Travis County Sheriff's Office and the Texas Office of the Inspector General were all involved.
An arraignment and detention hearing is set for June 26.