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Operation No Laughing Matter: Cerritos, Norwalk, Huntington Park businesses raided for illegal Nitrous Oxide sales

A female attempts to enter BPG in Cerritos on Friday afternoon during a raid on the location for the sales of nitrous oxide.  Randy Economy Photo
A female attempts to enter BPG Performance in Cerritos on Friday afternoon during a raid on the location for the sales of nitrous oxide. Randy Economy Photo

 UPDATED AT 7:45 P.M.

By Brian Hews

In one of the most serious crackdowns on the sales of the dangerous drug known as nitrous oxide, 26 different locations were raided on Friday including locations in Cerritos, Norwalk and Huntington Park.

The operation known as “Operation No Laughing Matter,” targeted illegal Nitrous Oxide distribution centers in a three county area that included Los Angeles County, Orange County and Riverside County.

One of the locations targeted was BPG Performance at 16303 1/2 Piuma in an industrial park that is just yards from the Cerritos Iron Wood 9 Golf Course.  Los Cerritos Community Newspaper witnessed armed officers converge on the tiny business at around 4:55 p.m.   A female customer was seen trying to enter the front door of BPG Performance while the raid was actually commencing, apparently looking to make a purchase. At least two employees were seen being detained in a narrow alley behind the store by at least one officer.

Sheriff's were seen at BPG Performance in Cerritos on Friday afternoon in a raid targeting illegal nitrous oxide sales.

Sheriff’s were seen at BPG Performance in Cerritos on Friday afternoon in a raid targeting illegal nitrous oxide sales. Randy Economy Photo

Another raid took place at LA RUSH  in Norwalk  at 13556 Pumice Street and LA RUSH located at 5717 Malabar Street in  Huntington Park.

“Operation No Laughing Matter” was the result of a year-and-a-half-long joint operation by the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

A major Command Center for “Operation No Laughing Matter” was staged in a parking lot at the Cerritos Regional Park located on Bloomfield Ave at 195th Street.  Scores of media outlets and journalists from throughout Southern California were briefed at the location prior to the commencement of the arrests.

Photo of "display case" inside BPG Performance in Cerritos via Facebook.

Photo of “display case” inside BPG Performance in Cerritos via Facebook.

 

Documents related to the investigation allege that nitrous oxide is being sold by stores across Southern California that purport to sell the gas for welding or car racing applications, but in fact are merely distributing a drug used by young people at rave-style parties.

Several social media sites, including Facebook have fan pages dedicated to the businesses Los Angeles and Orange Counties where the dangerous drug is sold in commercial facilities.

Nitrous Oxide “NOS,” has resulted in violent assaults, sexual assaults, overdoses and traffic collisions, and “NOS Party’s” are also promoted on the internet.

During an afternoon press conference at the Sheriff’s Headquarters in Monterey Park, law enforcement officials said that the increasing awareness and monitoring of social media for preventive measures and intelligence have led policing in order to preempt illegal drug parties.

Two criminal complaints filed in United States District Court allege that the four defendants – as well as a host of storefronts across Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as the Inland Empire – engaged in “misbranding” of nitrous oxide because they are distributing nitrous oxide for personal use without a prescription and in containers that do not include proper warning labels.

“Nitrous oxide is a dangerous inhalant when used for recreational purposes, and we want the public, especially parents, to be aware of its abuse by our youth,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “We also want those who choose to profit from the sale of nitrous oxide as a recreational drug to know that law enforcement is on your trail. We will find you, prosecute you, and convict you.”

A 73-page affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaints outlines a 15-month investigation dubbed “Operation No Laughing Matter,” a reference to “laughing gas,” a commonly used name for nitrous oxide. The prescription drug has legitimate uses, such as an anesthesia, but is used also for recreational purposes to create a temporary, euphoric “rush.” At high and prolonged exposure levels, nitrous oxide is an asphyxiant that can cause death from a lack of oxygen. The illegal use of nitrous oxide can also lead to spasms, convulsions and other health problems.

The illegal distribution of nitrous oxide also negatively impacts the environment. Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas with about 300 times the harmful impact of carbon dioxide, the most common and best-known greenhouse gas.

One criminal complaint charges three defendants associated with Victor Welding Supply on East 58th Street in South Los Angeles. Out of those three defendants, two were arrested earlier this afternoon at Victor Welding.

Those charges are:
William Victor, 65, of Northridge, who is currently being sought by authorities;
Edward Valencia, 51, of Lynwood, who was arrested; and
Federico Valencia, 58, of South Los Angeles, who was arrested.

The third defendant arrested today – Rose Marie Cuellar, 20, of Florence-Graham – is an employee of LA Rush, Inc., which operates stores in Norwalk and Huntington Park.

“The collaboration with the FDA and U.S. Attorney’s Office to crack down on these illegal nitrous oxide businesses enables us to prevent harm to youth that are using these drugs recreationally at illegal parties,” said Sheriff Lee Baca. “Through our Electronic Communication Unit, which observes open source social media sites at Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau, we have been able to locate more than 350 illegal parties that were openly advertised on social media. The businesses that were targeted today sell a dangerous product that perpetrates violent assaults, sexual assaults, juvenile fatalities and overdoses.”

The three defendants arrested today are expected to remain in custody until they make their initial court appearances in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles on Monday. Authorities will attempt to take Victor into custody.

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3 Comments on "Operation No Laughing Matter: Cerritos, Norwalk, Huntington Park businesses raided for illegal Nitrous Oxide sales"

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McMahon, J.
Guest
Saturday, March 23, 2013. Saw this on TV News last night at 10pm, Chan 5. More assault to the city. Really makes former Jim Edwards look even worse, as he was always saying how great our city is. Diversity is not our best friend, as along with diversity, is host of unknowns bleeding in to our country, which the USA has no tract records or data to research. After unfolding on TV, Drug Bust is the street where former Cerritos Council dedicated for X rated porn and adult services. How come the sheriffs don’t patrol more, since this is a… Read more »
McMahon, J.
Guest
Friday, March 22, 2013. Great Reporting Randy! When heard about this task force at the Regional Park at nooner; called Cerritos Sheriffs Depart, Captains Swensson Office, as was brushed off by his staff. His staffers said this was a nothing task force and not to worry. Why this was so played down, as the residents surrounding this 86 Acre Park, controlled by County Supervisor, Knabe; should be informed and info raised of this caliber should be transparent to the residents?? This is one of the many reasons, Cerritos Safety Commission, must be televised, as the city is not transparent, which… Read more »