Trafficking ring bust the biggest in Fallbrook history

When 49 individuals involved in a Fallbrook-based drug and weapons trafficking ring were arrested the week of Sept. 17 in one powerful law enforcement sweep, dubbed Operation Cruel Summer, history was made.

“This was the largest bust that focused almost exclusively on the Fallbrook area,” said Lt. Todd Richardson, commander of the Fallbrook Sheriff’s substation. “There have been some larger ones that have taken place throughout North County with targets in multiple areas. This operation focused on the Fallbrook area; even the few collateral arrests either lived in Fallbrook or had strong ties to the area.”

Richardson said it was outstanding local footwork that helped build the complex case.

“It is interesting to note that even with the size and scope of this operation, all the data was developed from the street level; informant management played a big part in this,” said Richardson. “The deputies and detectives did an absolutely fantastic job on this.”

Multiple agencies assisted in the large operation to provide specialized help. Some 246 deputies and federal agents took part in the effort that had been in the works for six months. Agencies that lent their support included the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA); Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), Border Patrol, U.S. Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.), the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, and more.

“The cooperative effort and the ability we have to bring in all the extra resources made this very successful,” said Richardson. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Dept. has garnered what Richardson called an “excellent” national reputation for its technical and tactical operations.

“We are very proud of our department and the good job it does,” he said.

Working the streets

Significant manpower went into gathering intelligence on the trafficking ring at the street level. Deputies on the streets of Fallbrook have worked to create relationships with citizens in order to assist in this effort.

“Those connections bring the COPPS (Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving) deputies in front of the public to hear their concerns and tips where there may be problem areas of town or suspicious persons frequenting a certain residence or business,” explained Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Feliccia. “Also, we have many citizens who call us (communications center) on a daily basis to report suspicious activity at a residence/business, or a suspicious person(s). Many times having concerned citizens call in with those suspicious hunches results in deputies making an arrest, and at the very least, contacting that person or residence and investigating the issue.” 

Danger these rings present to the community

Illegal drug sales lead to myriad problems, most of which affect the law-abiding community members.

“Individuals who are involved in illegal drugs pose many problems,” said Feliccia. “Usually, many of those individuals don’t have the money to support their drug habit. So, in many cases those individuals are stealing and committing many of our crimes in the Fallbrook area in order to support their drug habit.”

“A lot of our residential, commercial, and vehicle burglaries are a result of drug users committing those crimes then selling their stolen goods to get money to support their drug addiction,” he continued. “Another problem that individuals who are involved in illegal drugs pose to our neighborhoods is that these drugs are getting in the hands of our students.”

“We see a variety of illegal drugs at our schools in Fallbrook, and its not just marijuana anymore,” said Feliccia. “Drugs range from methamphetamine (meth), and Ecstasy, to new designer drugs like bath salts and 2C-E (a designer LSD-type drug).

Feliccia explained that working cases like Operation Cruel Summer “is so instrumental in getting the drug users and drug sellers behind bars, so they can’t get drugs into our students’ hands.”


Knowing where the problems are

Feliccia said deputies are well aware of the problem areas demographically in the greater Fallbrook area.

 “We have many great deputies and detectives who have worked in this community for many years, so they know the community and the people well,” said Feliccia. “After three to six months, even a new deputy would have a pretty good idea of where the primary problem areas of Fallbrook were located, and who the main problem people are.”

Feliccia said the network of deputies that work Fallbrook in their schedule number around 40 and four detectives are assigned to the area.

“We have to be able to communicate well with each other and know what is going on in Fallbrook,” said Feliccia. “One of the ways we do this is by having monthly meetings called the Fallbrook Intelligence Group. At these meetings, one person from each department from the Fallbrook Sheriff’s substation attends along with a Sheriff’s crime analyst. We discuss current hot spots in town, where the most calls for service are being generated from.”

“We also look at current trends – like commercial burglaries, residential burglaries, etc. that may be happening in a certain part of town,” he added.

“We use information from the analyst to help us target certain areas and/or particular people of interest,” said Feliccia. “Having the Fallbrook Intelligence Group meetings helps patrol deputies, COPPS deputies, and detectives stay focused on particular areas of the Fallbrook community.”

Apartment communities are problematic

In building the case regarding this particular drug and weapons trafficking operation, undercover officers made more than 100 undercover buys.

“A lot of the drug buys during Operation Cruel Summer were done at apartment complexes that are not involved in the Sheriff’s Dept.’s Crime Free Multi Housing program,” said Richardson.

According to department crime prevention specialist John McLelland, criminal activity easily takes root in apartment communities. The reasons for that include the basic premise of an apartment rental.

“Because the residents of an apartment community are of a more transitory nature, they usually do not take pride of ownership like they would if they owned the place themselves,” said McLelland. “Not to mention, those who spend so much money on drugs often cannot afford a house and when you have to move a lot, owning a house is not ideal.”

Richardson said only about one-third of Fallbrook area apartment community properties are participating in the Crime Free Multi-Housing (CFMH) program currently.

“I know [the process to become crime-free] can be difficult, but the end really does justify the means,” said Richardson. “It empowers the complex owners/managers to support us.”

McLelland said the biggest challenge for these particular property owners is “the failure to understand the benefits of becoming a CFMH certified property.”

“There are minimum requirements for certification, which may require a substantial investment to achieve, but in turn make the property a more safe and attractive environment for the residents,” said McLelland. “While the decent resident does not own the overall property, their individual apartment is their home and they want to feel safe from crime and criminal elements while on the property and inside their home. Most people are willing to pay a little more in rent for such assurance.”

Kudos to community members

Richardson said adamantly that community members were the ones that made Operation Cruel Summer as successful as it was.

“The information from the citizens played a very valuable role in this operation,” he said. “The importance of community involvement is critical. I admit it does take time for us to follow up thoroughly on this type of information, but now it’s like a breath of fresh air for the community.”

For citizens that may question whether or not they should report suspicious behavior to the Sheriff’s Dept., Richardson said he always uses the same guideline, “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it most likely is a duck. They should make the call and let us look into it.”

Citizens with observations to report should call Crime Stoppers toll free at (888) 580-8477. Calls can be made anonymously.

15 Responses to "Trafficking ring bust the biggest in Fallbrook history"

  1. Brenda   October 4, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    GREAT JOB!!!!! That is definately a group effort but there is always a core group that organizes it and gets it going in the right directions. Now if you gentlemen, women, can keep working your way right up the freeway into Temecula, Murrieta, Menife, up to Mead Valley alot alot alot of residents would be very happy.

  2. lawrence   October 4, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    when I saw the list of names I remember several from when I was living there….in 1979….don’t go breaking your hands patting yourselves on the back to much….its 2012 now….all I can say is what took so darned long!!!!

  3. nickyc   October 4, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    where is the list of names?
    editor’s note: the list was contained in the original article posted Sept. 18 –

  4. 3 year home owner in Fallbrook.   October 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    It’s a great start, don’t slow down the pace. I’m so happy this is being done. I bought my home first, then found out about all the crime ect. I see the Sherrif in town and I just want to High five them all. Please, please, keep up the fight.

  5. Re-???   October 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    I agree with 3 year home owner. I think it takes a lot to make sure to get all the ducks in a row so that when the officials do make the arrests, it sticks. So many times people get arrested because he or she gets caught doing a dumb act, and the sentence gets reduced to basically nothing. Some if not most of these individuals have been deported, or still lay his or her butts in jail where all little punks belong. I know that all communities suffer from this cancer called drug-puppets, and it is good to see that our community’s law enforcement has taken a notice and has begun to crack down on these individuals. Sometimes it takes the right person for the job, before the job gets done correctly, and it worked and the law enforcement worked. Great Job!! It is a start and there are many who are waiting in his or her homes for you. Keep up the good work!!Thank you!!

  6. Preston   October 5, 2012 at 7:34 am

    To all those congratulating the Sheriff’s Department, follow up by voting and demanding the Judicial system get tough on crime. If you don’t the hard work done by law enforcement will be undermined and the individuates involved will be back on the street in no time.

  7. Cimarron   October 5, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Is there a list available of the CFMH properties in the area?

  8. FB resident   October 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you for all your hard work and the long hours I am sure this bust took to orchestrate. Keep up the good work! KEEP FALLBROOK DRUG FREE AND SAFE FOR OUR CHILDREN!

  9. more of the same   October 6, 2012 at 9:34 am

    The drug dealers have moved back in and are busy at work. Have attempted to call but no respose.

  10. De Luz Resident   October 7, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Re: More of the same

    nature abhors a vacuum.

  11. Preston   October 8, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    De Luz Resident, "nature abhors a vacuum" — Did you make that up or get it from

  12. incorporate   October 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Hopefully the community will recognize we have become the drug capital of north county. In one residence 11 of the dealers have moved back in doing business as usual. I had no ieda what this community has become, heavely armed drug dealers. Where’s Horn we need him.

  13. Concerned resident   January 29, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    I’m happy to see a more present law enforcement here in Fallbrook, The drug dealers in our neighborhood seem to be under a watchful eye, although they still live there. Too many parties and foot traffic are the most obvious signs that we all should look out for. The police need to clean up Fallbrook- and please ticket speeders on Fallbrook St, Elbrook and Elder people drive way too fast in this town.

  14. town never will change   February 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Drugs are rampent. Thore arrests did very little. A whole bunch of new dealers have taken their place to sell all the heroin and methamphetamine this town can follow. l love how the Village News listed 49 names they arrested, yet never mentioned the sentences these people recieved. "Operation Cruel Summer" made it sound like they stopped some sort of criminal enterprise or cartel in Fallbrook. l know the people they arrested, and those people ran "dissorganized crime." lm surprised it took the cops so long to do the job. Wait until the cops deal with some smart criminals. Even though that statement is usually an oxymorone with the criminals in this town. The drug laws in this country are a joke. Good luck Fallbrook, good luck country. DRUGS ARE HERE TO STAY FOR GOOD!

  15. jeffferies   September 22, 2017 at 8:58 am

    I lived on Almond St. and moved because neighbors on either side of my house dealt drugs on a daily basis. I called and called but they were never arrested, you got one of them this time however.
    Check out this area. One group owns a nursery in another area they drive a big yellow truck they use for “business”.

    former 27 year resident


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