HANFORD, Calif. (KFSN) --Hundreds of hours of surveillance, search warrants, and cell phone wiretaps, all lead to the takedown of a large-scale heroin ring in the South Valley.
Operation Black Gold started in October of 2015. By the spring of this year, the Kings County Narcotics Task Force had already identified three suspects who they said were major players in a Hanford-based heroin ring: Robert Huerta, Frank Reyes, and another suspect who still hasn't been arrested.
In July, investigators had enough information to get a judge's authorization to wiretap cell phones. That lead them to suspect Jose Flores, the top local supplier in the drug chain.
"It's probably one of the reasons why we don't see more large-scale takedowns is because they're very difficult to work without the use of a wiretap but it takes a lot of time as you saw to get to that," said Kings County Sheriff Dave Robinson.
Flores was added to the wiretap and authorities arrested Ubaldo Lopez after a search warrant in Fresno County.
The next month, Flores met Edgar Lopez-Hernandez and Ivan Valenzuela near Bakersfield for a drug delivery. Investigators stopped both cars and found a pound and a half of heroin and almost 20-thousand dollars in cash.
The same day, police served search warrants at three Hanford homes, including one on Osprey Street and a stash house across the street.
"Search warrants were served, eight wiretaps, three pounds of heroin valued at $109,200, one pound of methamphetamine valued at $6,000, three firearms, four vehicles were seized," Robinson said.
Also taken was $35,000.
Staff worked on the case for a total of 4,500 hours during the nearly year-long investigation. But it was well-worth the time and effort because officials said heroin has made a comeback in Kings County.
"Heroin is obviously the after effect of oxycodone use and this is the street level high that people get," said Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes. "And again, we call it black gold for a reason, it's a highly lucrative operation."
Investigators said the transactions, up to 70 per day, typically took place in Hanford-area parking lots, including an apartment complex on Hanford Armona Road.
Officials hope the arrests send a message to those involved in the drug trade-- that it won't be tolerated in Kings County
All six suspects face similar charges, including possession and transportation of heroin for sale, as well as conspiracy and criminal profiteering. Their bails have been set at more than $400,000 each.