LOS ANGELES (CN) – A husband and wife ran an unlicensed day care center where the husband dealt cartel cocaine worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.
The couple operated the center out of their latte-brown residence in hilly Highland Park, taking in toddlers and kids up to age seven.
Kids would play on the patio outside the house as dealers and users came and went from the home. Parents occasionally stopped by to drop off or pick up their kids. Inside, the husband hid cartel cocaine worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office says.
City Attorney Mike Feuer’s civil nuisance abatement lawsuit names Felipe Talamante, 48, and his wife, Garcia Talamante, as defendants. The city prosecutors say the home-based day care catered to children as young as two and that the Talamantes used it to deal drugs trafficked by a cartel. The city’s action seeks an injunction to shut down the center, as well as monetary penalties and costs.
In May, law enforcement seized 20 kilograms of cocaine with a wholesale value of about $430,000 from the residence. Earlier this month, Felipe Talamante and his 19-year-old son Miguel Angel Talamante faced a federal criminal complaint for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Authorities had known for at least two years that Talamante was using the residence to sell narcotics and that the property was a revolving door for users and dealers.
At a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday morning, Feuer said the day care center and the home was a hub for “rampant drug activity.”
“We’re focusing today on an especially toxic combination. We’re alleging a combination of cocaine and kids in the location,” Feuer said. “Imagine if you dropped off your kids at a location where they ostensibly would be safe to play and then you learned that drugs were being sold.”
He said he could not comment on why the authorities had allowed the unlicensed day care on Marmion Way in Highland Park to operate even after law enforcement had arrested Talamante in 2015 at the same location, which is 900 feet from Monte Vista Elementary School.
Authorities first recovered 20 kilograms of cocaine when they arrested Talamante two years ago, Feuer’s office said.
“We can speak to what’s happening right now, and what’s happening right now is an aggressive concerted effort to target illegal drug activity and at the same time protect kids,” Feuer said.
The blinds were drawn behind barred windows at the Talamante’s residence on Tuesday afternoon, and a pair of chairs were tucked beneath a table in the property’s front yard. Trash containers in the yard brimmed with empty beer cans.
A neighbor emerged from a nearby house dressed in a white sleeveless t-shirt and green shorts. When asked if he had heard about the criminal action against the occupants, he shrugged.
“I don’t give a fuck about these people. I only care about myself,” he said before bicycling down a narrow road adjacent to railway tracks.
A Chevrolet Cruz was parked outside the house. But a knock on the front door went unanswered. Neighbors in the convenience store and cafe around the block had not heard about the case.
On May 25, law enforcement seized an additional 20 kilograms of cocaine, two cocaine rocks, and digital scales. Investigators found drugs in the same room as a small mattress that was used for children to take naps, according to Feuer.
The criminal complaint says that a confidential source told law enforcement on May 17 that Felipe Talamante was selling the drugs. An undercover agent then met with Felipe, and he agreed to sell him drugs after the agent told him he was visiting town from San Francisco and was interested in buying cocaine and methamphetamine.
California Justice Department agent Frank Cortez saw several kids playing in the front yard when he went to Felipe’s multi-unit home to pick up the drugs on May 25, according to the June 7 criminal complaint.
During the day, the takedown team saw children of all ages going to and from Felipe’s home. Authorities said that they recovered 20 kilograms of cocaine from a black gym bag in one-kilogram packages secured with tan masking tape.
Chuck Balo with the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force, also known as LA Impact, said the defendants had left the children at the day care center exposed to the dangers of the drugs, violence from rival cartels or robbers entering to steal cash and drugs.
“For a drug trafficker to set up an operation in a local area, at his home and involving his own son, with his peers [and] his wife operating a day care center with kids running around right in the middle of a drug operation is just amazing,” Balo said.
LA Impact said in a news release that the drugs recovered from the residence had a street value of $2 million.
Felipe Talamante was affiliated with the cartel but was not a gang member, Balo said, adding that he did not know the cartel’s identity. The Sinaloa Cartel is the main trafficker of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine into the Los Angeles area, according to the DEA.
Feuer noted that citizens who suspect illegal activity in their neighborhoods but fear retaliation should contact his office anonymously at 213-978-8340 or through www.lacityattorney.org.