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Hidriodic acid arrests close Vons parking lot in Calexico

September 28, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The parking lot of Vons in Calexico was closed Thursday afternoon after state Department of Justice narcotics agents arrested two men for possession of what was later determined to be hidriodic acid, a precursor of methamphetamine.

Imperial County Narcotic Task Force agents who arrived later closed the parking lot because the acid can burn one's lungs, sometimes fatally.

NTF Cmdr. Ernie Limon said DOJ agents were patrolling the border looking for any suspicious activity around 3:30 p.m.

Around that time the agents noticed two suspicious vehicles in the Vons parking lot.

After a short time, the drivers drove up to each other and started to move six 2-and-a-half-gallon oil containers from the trunk of one vehicle to the other.

The men, identified as Miguel Eduardo Sandoval Valenzuela, 37, and Arturo Diaz Villa, 42, both of Mexicali, appeared nervous after agents approached them.

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One of the men told agents there was oil in the containers while the other said he didn't know what was in the tanks.

Agents determined it wasn't oil after they picked up one of the containers. Limon said the acid is a heavy liquid.

The agents called laboratory-certified NTF agents to the scene. The NTF agents determined the oil to be hidriotic acid and closed the parking lot because of the potentially dangerous fumes.

Limon said those involved in drug trafficking usually hire someone to bring the acid across the border, since it is banned in the U.S. without a proper license. A second driver then takes the liquid to a designated area.

The liquid could have made 15 to 20 pounds of methamphetamine.

Both suspects were turned over to the Calexico Police Department. They were being held today in the county jail for possession of a controlled substance and intent to manufacture a controlled substance. Bail for both was set at $50,000.

Chemists from the DOJ came from Riverside to dispose of the chemicals.

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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