Seven Tuolumne County residents were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of leading a cocaine and ecstasy trafficking operation out of a cocktail lounge in Twain Harte.
Search warrants on three homes in Twain Harte and Sonora uncovered 3 ounces of cocaine, 2 ounces of MDMA (ecstasy), $9,000, two loaded handguns and evidence of a butane honey oil laboratory.
A Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office press release stated that undercover Tuolumne Narcotics Agents and California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Agents purchased cocaine and MDMA several times during a months-long operation.
The Union Democrat is not identifying the bar because Sgt. Andrea Benson of the Sheriff's office said none of the seven people arrested were employees of the lounge, but were patrons who sold to undercover agents.
An employee of the lounge who would not identify himself said the owner was not available, and the establishment was not involved in trafficking ring.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” he said.
California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Public Information Officer John Carr said the state agency worked closely with the Sheriff's Office to make undercover buys over the past several weeks.
Additional information on how the undercover drug purchases were conducted was not available, he said.
“Our people work hard to gather facts and information, and they have to go out and do their due diligence in the field. When you do an undercover operation, it needs to be just that, something very difficult for people to identify,” he said.
Sgt. Andrea Benson with the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation is ongoing. One suspect has not been located, and additional evidence is still being collected.
“To protect the integrity of the case for prosecution, limited details are being released at this time,” she said.
The Sheriff’s Office has dubbed the trafficking sting “Operation Snow Fall.”
Carr said the ABC’s involvement was because the suspected drug dealing occurred in an ABC-licensed location.
Search warrants were executed about 6 a.m. Wednesday at three homes occupied by suspects, including an unidentified location on Joaquin Gully Road.
Sebastian Sauve Christensen, 27, was located at his home on the 21300 block of Ridgeview Drive in Sonora; Quentin Kern Gelhaus, 26, and Richelle Marie Diaz, 26, were located at the 22700 block of Blackhawk Drive in Twain Harte; and Christopher Mantzouranis, 25, was located at his home on the 18400 block of Marquis Drive in Twain Harte.
The cocaine, ecstasy, money and loaded handguns, as well as packaging materials and scales, were in the homes. One of the handguns was found to have been stolen out of Modesto, a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office press release said.
A 6-year-old child who was related to one of the suspects was in the home on the 22700 block of Blackhawk Drive in Twain Harte.
Benson said the the child was placed into the care of Child Welfare Services, and no additional information would be released about the child’s identity.
Evidence of a cannabis oil manufacturing lab was also located in the home on Marquis Drive.
Other suspects included Joshua Steven Hankins, 29, of Sonora, who was located at a business in Tuolumne; Alyson Patio Bradley, 28, who was located on the 22900 block of Twain Harte Drive; and Troy Allen Mangrum, 22, of Soulsbyville, who was arrested at the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office jail lobby in Sonora.
A suspect named Gary Somerville has not been found but is wanted on suspicion of drug sales in both Tuolumne County and in Tennessee, the press release stated.
Each of the seven suspects, except for Mangrum, were served with an arrest warrant for criminal conspiracy and selling a controlled substance.
Gelhaus, identified as an unknown transient from Twain Harte, and Diaz, of the 22900 block of Joaquin Gully Road, were booked on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance while armed with a loaded firearm, possession of a controlled substance for sale, possession of a narcotic controlled substance for sale, criminal conspiracy and misdemeanor charges willful cruelty to a child.
Benson said Gelhaus was identified as the “leader” of the trafficking ring, and additional details on that topic could not be released at this time.
According to Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office logs, Gelhaus has a previous arrest for misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance in Twain Harte on June 14, 2017.
Gelhaus has a total bail of $130,000.
Diaz was previously charged with misdemeanor disturbing the peace on Nov. 17, 2017, and felony threatening crime with the intent to terrorize on Nov. 6 at an apartment on the 100 block of Greenley Road by the Sonora Police Department.
Diaz has a bail of $110,000.
Mantzouranis, was booked on suspicion of criminal conspiracy, possession of cocaine and MDMA for sale, possession of a specific controlled substance while armed with a loaded firearm, possession of a stolen firearm and manufacture of a controlled substance.
Mantzouranis has a bail of $180,000.
Christensen was booked on suspicion of committing a felony while out on bail and possession of a narcotic controlled substance for sale.
Christensen was also booked on suspicion of multiple drug charges on Dec. 9, 2018, after 11.23 grams of cocaine, 19.05 grams of the psilocybin mushrooms, 0.55 grams of MDMA, a bottle of liquid codeine, cash, electronics and marijuana were found inside of a Mitsubishi Lancer he was driving on Longeway Road at Amy Drive in Sonora.
Christensen has a bail of $60,000.
Hankins and Bradley were both booked on their warrants.
Hankins has a bail of $80,000 and Bradley has a bail of $60,000.
Mangrum was booked on suspicion on criminal conspiracy and accessory to a crime.
His bail was set at $20,000.
Only Mangrum and Bradley had bonded out of the Tuolumne County Jail as of Friday afternoon. All others remained in custody.
Operation Snow Fall included law enforcement from TNT, ABC, Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office detectives, Patrol and Boating Divisions, and the High Risk Probation Supervision team, a press release stated.