WYOMING, Mich. -- Authorities say three dangerous men with ties to West Michigan are connected to a Mexican drug cartel and are wanted in connection with a marijuana bust in Wyoming.
Several men were arrested, and more than 12,000 pounds of marijuana was discovered. The bust was valued at $50 million.
Officials are still looking for Adrian Nunez Gonzalez, Alex Parra, and Angel Santos-Rodriguez.
"Late in October of 2011, the DEA was investigating a drug conspiracy, and their investigative efforts led them to West Michigan’s Wyoming," Deputy U.S. Marshal Justin Efthemiou said.
A drug smuggling investigation that spanned North America led the DEA to a warehouse in the quiet Grand Rapids suburb.
Surveillance footage and a search warrant led to the drug discovery, one of the largest in West Michigan’s history.
The marijuana was unloaded from a semi-truck trailer, cut down distributed, Efthemiou said. There was a whole system "getting guys with small pickup trucks and trailers to trailer the bales, and then to take it to another location to break it down into dealer size.”
The DEA saysThey were professionally packaged bales of marijuana smuggled across the U.S./Mexican border.
The marshals say Angel Santos-Rodriguez was the mastermind behind the entire Wyoming operation. He’s known as “Changa,” and while the DEA was surveying the warehouse, authorities say, he got word law enforcement was closing in on the operation.
"So he leaves, and the last information the DEA receives was that he left in a silver pickup with an unknown Hispanic male believed to be traveling to the Chicago area," Efthemiou said.
Santos-Rodriguez put Alex Parra and Adrian Nunez-Gonzalez in charge of the drug operation after leaving the state, Efthemiou said. Nunez-Gonzalez and Parra picked up the slack and were trying to complete the operation when they also caught wind that law enforcement officials were closing in. That’s when they put one of the other three in charge and split, Efthemiou said.
Anthony Castro Gonzales, Tony Frank-Disla-Santiago, and Flavio Ramos were all convicted on federal charges for the drug operation, which is believed to have been active in Kent County since 2009.
After Nunez-Gonzales and Parra fled, they were under surveillance and pulled over for a legitimate traffic stop by Michigan State Police, court records show.
"They (MSP) check their documentation, but they didn’t have a valid arrest warrant at the time, and they didn’t have enough to detail them at the time, so they let them go, and that’s the last time they’ve seem them,” Efthemiou said.
That was Oct. 20, 2011, on westbound I-94 near I-196. They were in a 2003 black Dodge Ram with an Illinois license plate. They told the officer they were heading to Chicago.
Efthemiou and the U.S. marshals are now tasked with finding these men, whose true identities aren’t known.
Parra is believed to be a U.S. citizen born in California, but authorities say Nunez-Gonzales and Santos-Rodriguez are not U.S. Citizens. They were able to falsify documents well enough to obtain drivers licenses.
“It’s a real shot in the dark, and you just start it at a clue, and you start working from there,” Efthemiou said.
The men are extremely dangerous and believed to have ties with and resources from a Mexican drug cartel.
“With a large amount of marijuana like that, it’s going to bring in guns, they have to protect it," he said. "They have to bring in violence and it’s going to bring in other drugs."
Investigators say they’re asking for your help, because they don't have eyes everywhere.
Alex Parra is believed to have also have ties to North Hollywood and Sun Valley in California, as well as the state of Illinois. He’s 5’6” and 220 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.
Adrian Nunez-Gonzalez is believed to have several aliases and local connections to Berrien and Washington as well as California and Illinois. He’s 5’8” and 150 pounds with brown eyes and black hair.
The mastermind, Angel Santos-Rodriguez, also has several aliases and connections to Puerto Rico, Texas, and Mexico. He’s 5’8” with brown eyes and black hair.
All three should be considered armed and dangerous. If you see them call 911, if you know where any of them are call U.S. Marshals at 1-877-926-8332.