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Calexico officer, 2nd man charged in connection with cocaine seizure

May 31, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

A Calexico police officer and a Thousand Palms man have been formally charged with the importation of a controlled substance in connection with the May 24 seizure of more than 800 pounds of cocaine.

Officer Jose Angel Perry, 32, and Jose Barak, 42, were expected to be in federal court today in El Centro to face a detention hearing in connection with the drug seizure.

By presstime, the hearing had not taken place. During that hearing Judge Roger Benitez, the local U.S. federal magistrate, could decide whether to issue a bail amount for the two men.

Both men as of this morning remained in Imperial County jail without bail.

Barak was arrested May 24 and is thought to be the driver of the car in which more than 800 pounds of cocaine was found about 3 p.m. that day.

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Perry, who is thought to have been a passenger in the car, was arrested later that day when he turned himself over to Calexico police.

The incident arose when the car reportedly driven by Barak sped through the downtown Calexico Port of Entry rather than submit to a random search of the car as part of a "block blitz" program by U.S. Customs in which they take several vehicles at once to the secondary inspection area.

According to the complaint filed against both men, a senior customs inspector manning a primary checkpoint booth had recognized Perry in the car. Because that inspector knew Perry he released the vehicle.

However, because of the "block blitz," the car Perry was reportedly in was directed to the secondary inspection area.

It was then Barak reportedly raced through the port into the city of Calexico.

Customs inspectors put out a spike strip before the driver made it through the port. The spikes punctured two of the car's tires, but the vehicle continued to be driven north onto Imperial Avenue.

A short time later, a U.S. Border Patrol agent located the car abandoned at 327 Cesar Chavez Blvd.

That agent spotted a Hispanic male, about 6 feet 2 inches tall, running from the vehicle along the edge of the street.

The agent stopped the man, who was later identified as Perry. The man told the agent "he ran that way."

The agent requested Perry provide identification. Perry reportedly provided credentials that showed he was a police officer. The agent then released Perry, according to the complaint.

As the search continued, a Border Patrol agent took Barak into custody. He was later identified as the driver of the car, the complaint states.

Barak and the car were returned to the port, and a search of the car revealed 803.35 pounds of cocaine in the vehicle. The cocaine was found in the trunk.

According to the complaint, several hours later Perry, who had crossed the border into Mexico, returned to Calexico to turn himself into authorities.

During a press conference Friday, Calexico police officials said one Calexico officer had been in contact with Perry via a cell phone. That officer talked Perry into crossing the border and turning himself in to police, officials said.

Perry was turned over to Customs and booked into the county jail.

Few other details have been released.

Customs officials have said they do not know for sure what drug organization, if any, had attempted to bring the cocaine across the border.

Still, they said the seizure of 800 pounds of cocaine should hurt some organization, at least temporarily.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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