A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Feb. 6 for a group of Tuolumne County residents accused of operating a cocaine and ecstasy trafficking ring at a Twain Harte cocktail lounge over the past months.
Four of seven people arrested in connection with the case on Jan. 2 were arraigned on Wednesday at the Tuolumne County Superior Court: Quentin Kern Gelhaus, 26, and Richelle Marie Diaz, 26, who are no longer in jail custody, and Christopher Mantzouranis, 25, and Joshua Steven Hankins, 29, who remain in the custody of the Tuolumne County Jail.
All four present in court on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
Gelhaus is represented by Clay Bedford, of Sonora. Hankins is represented by Scott Gross, of Sonora. Mantzouranis is represented by Carolyn Woodall. Diaz was represented by Clint Parish during the hearing, but she said she secured the Calabria Law Group the night before to represent her at upcoming hearings.
Tuolumne County Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter said during the hearing that Sebastian Christensen, 27, another suspect, had previously been arraigned and was scheduled the same preliminary hearing date.
Hovatter said he expected to send out discovery documents to the attorneys by Thursday.
No mention was made during the hearing of Alyson Patio Bradley, 28, or Troy Allen Mangrum, 22, who were also arrested in connection with the case on Jan. 2.
Hovatter said in an email that a warrant had been issued for Bradley. Mangrum was not named as a part of the multi-defendant case, he added.
Sgt. Andrea Benson with the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office said last week that each of the suspects sold drugs to undercover Tuolumne Narcotics Agents and California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Agents outside of a cocktail lounge in Twain Harte. The undercover agents purported to have purchased cocaine and MDMA several times during a months-long operation.
The employees or owners of the bar were not believed to be involved in any criminal activity at this time, Benson said. All of the seven people arrested were patrons of the cocktail lounge.
All of the seven, except for Mangrum, were charged with criminal conspiracy and selling a controlled substance when they were served warrants by the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office during their arrests.
Gelhaus, Diaz, Mantzouranis and Christiansen also have additional charges incurred during their arrests that are being tried as separate but concurrent cases.
Gelhaus and Diaz were charged 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, misdemeanor charges and willful cruelty to a child.
Gelhaus was identified as the “leader” of the trafficking ring, and additional details on that topic could not be released at this time, Benson said.
Seibert said during the hearing a gun associated with Gelhaus was a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
Mantzouranis was charged 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.
Seibert said during the hearing the gun associated with Mantzouranis was a Glock .22 handgun.
Hankins was only charged with the warrants but is serving a sentence in the Tuolumne County Jail for a 2016 case related to a rape charge, Benson said. According to Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office logs, Hankins began his jail commitment to the sentence on Tuesday.
Christensen was charged 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 remains in the custody of the Tuolumne County Jail.
Christensen was located on the 21300 block of Ridgeview Drive in Sonora; Gelhaus and Diaz on the 22700 block of Blackhawk Drive in Twain Harte; and Mantzouranis on the 18400 block of Marquis Drive 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, packaging materials and scales, Benson 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 previously said 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.
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.
Mangrum was also identified in a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office press release related to the trafficking sting, and was booked on suspicion of criminal conspiracy and accessory to a crime.
The Sheriff’s Office has dubbed the trafficking sting “Operation Snow Fall.”
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.