Records: Guerena's brother was center of drug-trafficking probe

2011-06-03T12:00:00Z 2011-06-13T18:56:54Z Records: Guerena's brother was center of drug-trafficking probeBy Fernanda Echavarri Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 03, 2011 12:00 pm  • 

The older brother of the man shot and killed during a SWAT raid last month was the primary focus of a long-term drug-trafficking investigation, records released Thursday show.

Jose Guerena and an assortment of relatives and acquaintances are mentioned in a report that chronicles a probe that stretched over two years of a suspected drug-trafficking ring in which several people appeared to have no source of income - except for monthly welfare checks several people named in the reports received - to account for their expensive cars and properties, the records released under a court order indicate.

The Pima County Sheriff's Department investigation started with a traffic stop in early 2009.

The department released the affidavit, probable-cause statements and search-warrant returns after Pima County Superior Court Judge Deborah Bernini filed a ruling Thursday unsealing the documents. She allowed the department to censor eight lines that included information about an informant in the case.

Jose Guerena was killed by members of the Pima County Regional SWAT team on May 5 while they served a search warrant at his southwest-side home. He was hit 22 times, according to the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

Jose Guerena's contact with law enforcement began in late 2009 when he was a passenger in a vehicle carrying large, commercial- sized rolls of plastic wrap that deputies believed was used to wrap large loads of drugs, but no drugs were found inside, the document said. That same year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents investigating a narcotics case saw two men driving a loaded car to a residence where they found more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana. The two men were followed after they dropped off the marijuana at a house. Jose Guerena was at the house, but he was not arrested in connection with the case. Two men are awaiting sentencing in that case.

The new reports focus more on Guerena's older brother, Alejandro.

In January 2009, a deputy who had stopped a vehicle driven by Alejandro Guerena found a semiautomatic gun and several thousand dollars in cash, court documents show. He was found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon.

It was from that traffic stop that detectives began an investigation that revealed Alejandro Guerena had "several close associates who were involved with narcotic trafficking," the documents say. He remained "the main focus of the surveillance operations," which took place many times a week for about six months.

Surveillance at three of the four homes was going on from late 2009 to early 2010, according to the documents. SWAT teams served search warrants on the homes the day Jose Guerena was fatally shot.

Surveillance of Jose Guerena's house, in the 7100 block of South Redwater Drive, began about two weeks before the shooting, according to the documents.

On April 20, detectives watching the house were followed for about 11 miles by a vehicle belonging to Jose Guerena's younger brother, Gerardo Guerena. Investigators believe the brother was driving the car that followed detectives. A couple of days later, investigators were told a person working at the Motor Vehicle Division ran a records check on the license plate of the detectives' car, according to the documents.

A third man, Jose Celaya, was listed as a suspect in previously released documents, and he owned two of the homes raided on May 5.

Celaya, 57, is Alejandro Guerena's father in-law. He was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1993 on charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, the documents show. He served six months in prison and two years' probation.

Celaya, Alejandro Guerena and many of their relatives receive monthly financial assistance from the government and show little to no income, the documents show. The welfare was detailed in the detective's effort to get court permission to search the homes.

Celaya is the registered owner of nine cars valued at almost $60,000 and is the owner of two homes, documents show. Alejandro Guerena and his wife, Pauline, are the registered owners of five vehicles valued at more than $24,000, according to records.

Jose Guerena's employment at the Asarco Mission Mine was confirmed by a Department of Economic Security income verification, the document said. He is the registered owner of six vehicles worth about $100,000 and is the listed owner of his home.

Sheriff's Department officials said earlier this week that high-end military gear and advanced weather-protective clothing were found inside a storage locker two weeks after the shooting. The locker, they said, was rented to Bertha Guerena, Jose Guerena's mother. Records obtained Thursday show that detectives found a U.S. Marines sleeping bag and Gore-Tex coveralls. Guerena was a former Marine who served in Iraq, military records show.

Receipts, bank-account statements, a cellphone and a note pad with phone numbers and vehicle identification numbers also were inside the locker, documents show.

The lead detective in the investigation wrote in the affidavit that during the six months of constant surveillance, none of the suspects was seen handling or even in the proximity of narcotics but that "these individuals operate a mid-level drug-trafficking organization in the Tucson area."

A judge approved the search warrant for the four homes on May 3, according to documents.

SWAT officers searched all four homes on May 5. They seized a small amount of marijuana, $100,000 in cash, more than 20 cellphones, an AK-47 rifle, lists with names next to dollar amounts in Celaya's home and a stolen vehicle at his other home, documents show.

The third home, owned by Jose Guerena's mother, had most of the furniture wrapped in plastic, documents show, and detectives seized cellphones and paperwork.

Jose Guerena's home was searched that morning after his death, and officials found body armor, guns, a rifle, a dozen cellphones and a hat with the U.S. Border Patrol logo.

 

Contact reporter Fernanda Echavarri at fechavarri@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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