A four-year drug investigation that ended Thursday night in the parking lot of Beaufort's Cross Creek Shopping Center yielded seven arrests, eight kilos of cocaine and about $120,000 in cash, authorities say.
Authorities displayed many of the spoils during a news conference Friday to announce the busts and explain the operation.
At about 8 p.m. Thursday, members of the Beaufort-Jasper Multi-Jurisidicational Drug Task Force arranged to buy cocaine from four brothers they believed to be major drug distributors in Beaufort County, Sheriff P.J. Tanner said.
When the men showed up to make the deal, they were arrested and deputies seized two loaded handguns and more than two kilograms of cocaine.
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Deputies then obtained search warrants for two Burton homes owned by the suspects on Castle Rock and Joe Frazier roads. Deputies found ammunition and scales at the Castle Rock home. They seized $120,000 in cash, four kilograms of cocaine, four cars and a number of flat-screen televisions from the home on Joe Frazier Road.
Lazaro Vargas-Montano, 35; Eloy Vargas Montano, 32; Zeus Victoria-Vargas, 23; and Marcos Antonio Vargas-Montano, 34, are being held at the Beaufort County Detention Center on multiple counts of cocaine trafficking. Tanner said all four are illegal immigrants and will be placed on a Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold at the jail. Alejandra Vazquez-Angulo, 23, also was arrested at the home on Joe Frazier Road and charged with one count of trafficking cocaine.
All five suspects face as much as 30 years in prison if convicted.
Tanner said deputies had been tracking the brothers for years as they moved from Hardeeville to Port Royal before finally settling in Burton.
"Anytime we got real close to them, they would pull up roots and relocate," Tanner said. "This was a major drug case and a major distribution operation."
Tanner said some, but not all, of the cocaine trafficked out of the two homes was destined for the streets of Beaufort County.
In related arrests, Norman Manigo, 46, of Yemasee and Ryan Fuller, 28, of Vance also were charged Wednesday night with trafficking cocaine.Deputies found two kilograms of cocaine in the vehicle Fuller and Vance were in. The two men were released Thursday from the Beaufort County Detention Center on $100,000 bond, according to the county jail log.