Jail detectives arrest alleged drug smugglers on heels of recent overdoses


Less than two weeks after sheriff’s personnel saved five people from overdosing at the Inmate Reception Center in L.A., detectives at Pitchess Detention Center arrested two men on drug smuggling charges.

Sheriff’s Department’s Jail Investigations Unit detectives arrested a pair of men on charges they brought drugs into Pitchess Detention Center over the weekend.

This morning, the Sheriff’s Department put out a Nixle report regarding their life-saving efforts on Dec. 5 at the L.A. jail facility.

“This incident makes it clear that the opioid and heroin epidemic can extend beyond the streets of our communities,” said Sheriff Jim McDonnell, in a statement regarding the overdoses. “In this case, it was able to reach into our controlled correctional environment.”

Jimmy Villanueva, 42, of Buena Park, and Joseph Chavez, 39, of Van Nuys, were arrested on three separate charges: 4573(A) PC, smuggling narcotics onto a jail facility; 4573.6 PC, possession of narcotics on jail property; and 182(a)(1) PC, conspiracy to commit a crime, according to a statement from Nicole Nishida, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s arrest log listed Villanueva as a driver, and Chavez as unemployed, and noted both were taken into custody around 1 p.m. Sunday.

Sheriff’s Department officials did not disclose where the heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana were found, but the drugs were apparently packaged for smuggling inside of the jail, according to the officials.

“The narcotics were wrapped in black, blue and white balloons on the outside,” according to a statement from Nishida. “Seven total packages — when the balloons were removed, all seven packages were wrapped in clear saran wrap.”

The Sheriff’s Department released a separate statement regarding an incident earlier this month that highlights the challenges of keeping drugs out of jail, and the dangers of narcotics abuse inside its facilities.

On Dec. 5, the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles was the site of life-saving efforts from the sheriff’s and fire departments after five inmates who were awaiting being processed into the facility in a temporary holding cell were unresponsive or disoriented, according to a Nixle report.

“It was determined that one of the inmates was no longer breathing and had no signs of life,” the report stated. “The custody personnel immediately began treatment and resuscitation efforts on the unresponsive inmate, while other personnel tended to four other inmates who were at various stages of medical distress.”

According to the Nixle: “The other four inmates were simultaneously undergoing medical treatment efforts, which also included the use of Narcan. All five inmates were transported to a local hospital, the report noted. Four of the inmates were released from the hospital within 12 hours after completely recovering. The fifth inmate made a full recovery and was released from the hospital after an additional 24-hours of observation. All five inmates have since been released from custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), with one inmate being transferred to another local law enforcement agency for an unrelated legal matter.

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