The owner of a Bluffton plumbing company is accused of being a major source of cocaine in Beaufort County and was arrested along with six others after a series of drug raids, Sheriff P.J. Tanner announced Thursday.
Gerardo Duran-Jauregui, 33, also known as Jerry Duran, was the subject of an investigation by the Beaufort/Jasper Multi-Agency Drug Task Force that began in early 2008, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Duran owns Duran Plumbing Services in Bluffton.
"(Duran) is responsible for what you see here," Tanner said, pointing to drugs, handguns, counterfeit money, fake IDs, cell phones, a shotgun and an assault rifle spread out on a table during a press conference Thursday. "He was a major distributor of cocaine in Beaufort County and in other jurisdictions."
Duran was charged with one count of trafficking cocaine, a felony charge that carries a jail sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison.
"Duran Plumbing Services may have done some legitimate work," Tanner said, "but we believe it was largely a front for moving cocaine into Beaufort County."
Tanner, Jasper County Sheriff Gregory Jenkins and other members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies said the arrests chip away at a multi-state drug ring and led to the seizure of more than $135,000 in cash and at least 35 pounds of cocaine.
Through information gathered by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, the Jacksonville (Fla.) Sheriff's Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, investigators determined Duran was responsible for moving large quantities of cocaine into and out of Beaufort County, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Investigators later linked Duran to Miguel Duran-Gonzalez, a Bluffton resident who was arrested July 6 in Louisiana with about 56 pounds of cocaine, the Sheriff's Office said. Tanner said the drugs were destined for Beaufort County.
Duran-Gonzalez's arrest allowed investigators to zero in on a number of addresses in Beaufort and Jasper counties, including a commercial building on Simmonsville Road in Bluffton.
On Aug. 16, investigators arrived at the building to find Nicemilio Campos-Alverez, 40, and Abisay Foriano Fuentes, 24, dismantling a 2003 Ford F-250 truck and hiding packages of cocaine inside the vehicle, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Authorities seized 35 pounds of cocaine, surveillance equipment, about $6,000 in cash, ammunition, two handguns, 10 vehicles, four trailers and a money counter.
Police obtained search warrants for three residences in Bluffton and another in Hardeeville, where they found about $138,000 in cash, an assault rifle, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, another handgun and two more vehicles believed to have been used for drug trafficking.
Fuentes; Alverez; Jorge Luis Diaz, 18; Jose Luis Duran, 23; and Yomara Anasu Diaz, 29, all were charged with trafficking cocaine and are being held in the Beaufort County Detention Center.
Tanner said Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents are working with deputies to determine the immigration status of those arrested.
"We've disrupted what we're calling a small drug cartel," Tanner said. "This was certainly one of the primary pipelines for cocaine into Beaufort County and one of the larger drug distribution networks in Beaufort County."
Duran was arrested in Texas and is in jail in that state, Tanner said, but he declined to say which jail. Duran-Gonzalez is being held at the Ouachita Parish Correctional Center in Louisiana on $500,000 bail after being charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.
The investigation is ongoing, and Tanner said he expects additional arrests and seizures. No one answered the phone Thursday at Duran Plumbing Services.