NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A 16-month investigation into the trafficking of hundreds of pounds of cocaine into Middle Tennessee has resulted in the arrest of eight persons, including the Nashville ring leader and a truck driver from Murfreesboro.
Sixty-eight pounds of cocaine, 14 weapons, 13 vehicles, three motorcycles and two bullet proof vests were seized, in addition to $200,000 in cash.
Authorities learned of the drug trafficking ring that came to be known as the Berly Drug Trafficking Organization in 2009 and have conducted extensive surveillance ever since.
The ring is alleged to have been headed locally by 21-year-old Jorge Berly
Metro police allege Berly and his co-conspirators are responsible for the shipment of more than 100 pounds of nearly pure cocaine per month into Nashville from Southern California.
The organization is known to have had a “stash house” located in the 2800 block of Creekview Drive in Antioch at which hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds were kept.
The house was also used to break down pure cocaine bricks and dilute them with other chemicals to increase the volume of the drug that could be sold on the streets, police said.
Berly and seven others, including his wife, were arrested in connection to the case and booked into the Metro Jail Monday evening.
Berly, of west Nashville, is charged with engaging in a cocaine conspiracy, possession of cocaine for resale, possession of a firearm in furtherance of cocaine distribution and money laundering.
Van Smith, 49, a truck driver from Murfreesboro, was also arrested.
Police said he is alleged to have hauled large amounts of cocaine on behalf of the drug organization from Ontario, California and an area near the U.S.-Mexican border.
Smith is alleged to have trucked the cocaine to his mother's home in Blue Mountain, Mississippi, where it was off loaded into a car and brought to Nashville via back roads in an effort to avoid the possibility of being stopped by interstate interdiction officers on I-40.
Smith is charged with engaging in a cocaine conspiracy.
Others jailed in the case are as follows:
- Berly's wife, Ilena Renya Llerena, 21, is charged with engaging in a cocaine conspiracy and money laundering. She is alleged to have packaged $40,000 in cash intended as payment to the cocaine supplier.
- Juan Reyna, 39, of Antioch, is charged with engaging in a cocaine conspiracy and money laundering. Reyna is alleged to have assisted Ilena Llerena in packaging the $40,000 cash at his home, and then following the money as it was driven on the interstate and ultimately given to the cocaine supplier.
- Victor Quijada, 37, of Smyrna, is charged with engaging in a cocaine conspiracy and money laundering. He is alleged to have actually driven the $40,000 to the cocaine supplier. Quijada is a mechanic by trade who is also alleged to have rigged hidden compartments in vehicles for the transportation of drugs, money and weapons. He is also alleged to have set up leases at various properties that were used by the organization as “stash houses.”
- Jose Velasquez, 39, of LaVergne, is charged with engaging in a cocaine conspiracy. A search of the Valesquez residence on Monday resulted in the discovery of more than 59 pounds of cocaine. He is also known to have been part of setting up the arrangement between Berly and Van Smith for the transportation of the cocaine from California to Nashville.
- Edwin Palma, 35, of LaVergne, is charged with engaging in a cocaine conspiracy. On Monday, Palma was in possession of a key to a gold Toyota truck that was found in the closed garage of a home at 172 Bill Stewart Boulevard in LaVergne, located less than one mile from the Holland Ridge residence. At the Bill Stewart address, an otherwise empty “stash house,” investigators found hidden compartments within the walls containing a fully loaded AK-47 rifle, money wrappers, a money counter, vacuum sealing bags and a vacuum sealer.
- Luis Colon, 27, of Smyrna, is charged with engaging in a cocaine conspiracy and violation of the Crooks with Guns law. Colon is alleged to have had responsibility for guarding the “stash house” at 2829 Creekview Drive in Nashville. Colon was at the Creekview Drive residence on Monday during the execution of a search warrant. Two guns were found under his mattress, an assault-type rifle was found in another bedroom, and another gun was discovered inside a kitchen cabinet.