Three suspected street-level drug dealers were arrested over the weekend, prompting renewed concern from the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office about the clandestine transportation of drugs both into, and within, the county.

Sgt. Andrea Benson said in an email that the “epidemic” of drugs — most commonly methamphetamine and heroin — was “always a concern” to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office.

But of increasing concern was the importation of drugs into the county, as evidenced by the arrest of a 74-year-old Salida man on Thursday near Phoenix Lake Road in Sonora.

According to a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office press release, a deputy noticed a black Mitsubishi Lancer on Creekside Drive in Sonora swerving in and out of his lane multiple times on Thursday morning.

The driver was found to be in possession of a suspended driver’s license and was unable to put his car into park and get out, Benson said.

The vehicle began to roll backwards towards a patrol vehicle parked behind him. A deputy then reached into the car and pulled the parking brake, Benson said.

At the same time, the deputy also took possession of a Mossberg & Sons .410 caliber shotgun located on the passenger seat.

Both the man and the vehicle were searched, Benson said.

Two bags of methamphetamine totaling more than nine grams were found in the man’s pants pocket, .
The man admitted that he was transporting the drugs to Cedar Ridge area for distribution, Benson said. Benson added that details of the case were still confidential due to the ongoing investigation.

Salida is located in Stanislaus County, northwest of Modesto along Highway 99.

Deputies also found Remington .410 shotgun ammunition (with six live rounds and one empty); seven rounds of Remington .280 caliber ammunition, three Winchester 12 gauge rounds, 31 rounds of CCI .22 long rifle ammunition, and a plastic cup on the driver’s side floorboard filled with 410 additional rounds.

William Raymond Paioni, of Salida, was booked on suspicion of transporting a controlled substance for sale, possession of a controlled substance for sale, possession of a controlled substance while armed with a loaded firearm and misdemeanor charges possession of a controlled substance and driving with a suspended license.

Paioni was booked into the Tuolumne County Jail on $25,000 bail and on Tuesday was no longer in custody.

Heroin found with man passed out in vehicle

On Friday afternoon, deputies responded to American River Drive after a local resident reported that a teal Honda had been parked at the bottom of her driveway for more than five hours. According to Tuolumne County Sheriff logs, the woman said at about 1 p.m. that a door to the vehicle was open and jumper cables were laying outside the vehicle.

Benson said it was unknown why the man was passed out. Medical personnel noted there was not a medical emergency. It was also unknown if the jumper cables were somehow involved with the man, Benson said.

Deputies woke up the man and found toot straws used for smoking narcotics, burnt foil, and three grams of heroin in the vehicle. Evidence of drug sales were also found, Benson said.

Joseph John Rizzuto, 22, of Sonora, was booked into the Tuolumne County Jail on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Rizzuto was booked on $20,000 bail and released from the jail on his own recognizance.

Investigation into lost phone uncovers suspected meth dealer

On Saturday morning, a woman reported that her cell phone was stolen and had located a signal where it may be located.

According to a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office press release, the phone signal was tracked to a parking lot outside of the Eagle Ridge Mini-Storage on Tuolumne Road in Sonora, where a local flea market was underway.

A deputy was directed to a Honda Accord and a man who was standing beside it, Benson said.

The deputy inquired about the phone, but the man said he and friend had found it. A credit card and an ID card associated with the owner of the phone was also reported missing, but the men denied being in possession of it.
The man, who was now joined by his friend, allowed the deputy to search the vehicle for the missing cards, the press release said.

The cards were not located, but nearly 11 grams of methamphetamine, hypodermic needles and baggies inside the of the vehicle. Inside a backpack owned by the vehicle owner’s friend, needles were also located, Benson said,
Logan Heilman, 29, of Turlock, was booked on suspicion of possession of drug paraphernalia and was later released from the Tuolumne County Jail on his own recognizance.

Lance Nathan Alexander, 41, of Sonora, was booked on suspicion of transportation of a controlled substance for sale, possession of a controlled substance for sale and possession of a controlled substance paraphernalia.

Alexander was booked into the Tuolumne County Jail on $20,000 bail and bonded out of custody.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.








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