Deputies: Second head of cocaine drug ring arrested
By Nathan Hardin
CHARLOTTE – After the arrest of a key suspect in Charlotte, authorities are searching for another man believed to have played a major role in a large-scale cocaine operation in Rowan County.
Jorge Molina-Sanchez, 33, formerly of Patriot Drive in Salisbury, was arrested Friday at an apartment complex off North Sharon Amity Road near Eastland Mall.
The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the arrest Wednesday, but declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation.
According to court files, Molina-Sanchez was one of two men placed in charge of the Rowan cocaine operation by his brother, accused kingpin Juan Antonio Molina-Sanchez.
Juan was arrested last fall. He pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking charges in August and awaits sentencing. He and Jorge are both in Mecklenburg County jail under no bond.
Authorities now are looking for a third person, Jose Luis Molina. Investigators believe Molina, a cousin, headed the operation with Jorge following Juan’s arrest last year.
A drug pattern
For years, Juan Molina-Sanchez controlled and grew the drug operation that brought more than 50 kilograms of cocaine into Rowan County.
Juan, 31, was the largest supplier of drugs in the county, according to an investigator. He had started trafficking drugs around 2004, he told a prosecutor, but the operation began spiraling out of control after a tip sparked the widespread investigation that involved the State Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
That tip came from an arrest in Utah. Court files show the investigation into Juan’s operation began in February 2011, when an officer in Utah stopped a vehicle. Inside were two women – Juan’s girlfriend and sister.
The vehicle had 11 grams of cocaine inside, too.
A few weeks later, Rowan investigators staked out a storage unit in Salisbury and saw Juan enter the building.
Authorities got a search warrant after a drug dog alerted to the smell of a controlled substance.Inside a 1998 Infinity I-30 parked in the storage unit, deputies found $30,000 in cash.
A week and a half later, Juan moved the car from the unit to a home on Old Beatty Ford Road.
On June 2, 2011, a cooperating witness told officers she was Juan’s cousin. A notary public in Gaston County, she admitted to investigators that she had been notarizing vehicle titles in nominee names provided to her by Juan.
Less than a week later, investigators spoke with Joel Alejandres Santibanez at a home on Cauble Stout Circle. east of Salisbury off Barger Road. He consented to a search of the home, but not of an outbuilding in the backyard, and not of the I-30 then parked at the home.
“Santibanez claimed that he worked cutting grass with Jorge Molina-Sanchez, using the expensive equipment that he possessed on the property,” a federal complaint said.
But a mower found at the home had only 15 hours of use logged on it.
Three weeks later, on July 26, 2011, Rowan deputies made a significant dent in the case when they returned to Cauble Stout Circle with a search warrant and raided the home.
Inside were three kilos of cocaine and one kilo of heroin, along with $139,000 in cash.
Investigators later learned the Molina family either owned or was connected to homes on Old Beatty Ford Road, Patriot Circle, West Franklin Street, Chesapeake Drive and another on Mt. Hall Road in Cleveland.
Santibanez, 38, was arrested in the raid. He remains in Rowan County jail under a $1,000,000 bond, charged with felony trafficking heroin, felony trafficking cocaine, felony possession of narcotics and felony maintaining a dwelling for storing drugs.
But Juan Molina-Sanchez escaped the raid.
An informant told prosecutors Juan Molina-Sanchez began dealing in 2004 with a customer in Iredell County, court records show.
A second informant said they began purchasing drugs from Juan in “ounce-quantity transactions,” a federal complaint said, and increased to an average of one to two kilograms of cocaine per month from 2007 to June 2011.
In a signed court admission, Juan said he brought at least 50 kilos of cocaine into the area, but not more than 150 kilos. He also admitted to trafficking at least one kilo of heroin.
Following the Utah seizure in early 2011, prosecutors believe Juan fled North Carolina for Florida.
He placed his brother Jorge and Jose Luis Molina in charge of the business from then on, court records said.
An informant said they then began purchasing drugs directly from Jose and Jorge.
On Oct. 5, 2011, investigators caught up with Juan Molina-Sanchez in Las Vegas.
An informant recorded his telephone conversation with Juan Molina-Sanchez as he acknowledged his connection to the Utah seizure and to doing future drug deals, court records said.
After Jorge’s arrest, deputies are now beginning the search for Jose Luis Molina.
Anyone with information about Molina’s whereabouts are asked to contact the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8700 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245.