Judge Holds Three Defendants to Answer on Drug Lab Charges, Gang Activity

YoloCourt-10By Tiffany Yeh and Misha Berman

Israel Junior Covarrubias, Riley Josiah Perez, and Amaris Amiah Rodriguez were held to answer on the charges of criminal street gang activity, joint control of manufacturing and the sale of a controlled substance, and child endangerment.

Israel Junior Covarrubias and Amaris Amiah Rodriguez are also being held to answer on gun charges.

Covarrubias is being represented by Public Defender Charles Butler, Perez is being represented by Conflict Attorney Jeffrey Raven, and Rodriguez is being represented by Defense Attorney Elliott Faust. Deputy District Attorney Kyle Hasapes is prosecuting.


Day One

By Misha Berman

In Department 7 there was a preliminary hearing for three defendants, Israel Junior Covarrubias, Riley Josiah Perez and Amaris Amiah Rodriguez, for having a butane lab in their home with children present, and possession of marijuana.

“I heard Mr. Perez on October 29, 2015. He was talking to ‘unknown source 5’ about a hose he purchased,” said Sergeant Tom Davis of the Woodland Police Department when the prosecutor asked him if he heard the conversation between Mr. Perez and “unknown source 5.”

Sgt. Davis then talked about how Mr. Perez and “unknown source 5” were discussing whether the hose he bought is able to “take pressure.” According to Sgt. Davis and Sergeant Aaron Delao, this warranted a “probation search.”

“I felt that because there were kids present their safety was jeopardy, which is why I felt that it was legitimate to do an investigation,” stated Davis.

Probation Officer Sergio Pimentel was called next to the witness stand. Officer Pimentel stated that on October 29, 2015, he went to Mr. Covarrubias’ house to investigate.

“I knew Mr. Covarrubias. I supervised him when he was a juvenile,” said Pimentel.

According to Pimentel, Covarrubias never told him his new address and this was the reasoning behind the house being investigated. According to Pimentel, Mr. Perez and Ms. Rodriguez were also present in the home during the investigation, as well as the two daughters of Covarrubias and Rodriguez.

“I went to the garage and saw Covarrubias in the garage – he looked like he was coming back from the backyard. I saw empty butane cans in the backyard,” said Pimentel

Officer Pimentel also mentioned that when he was investigating there was a can of marijuana, as well as more marijuana on the floor of the backyard.

Detective John Perez, a Woodland police officer, was the next witness called to the witness stand. According to Det. Perez, he and other officers on October 29, 2015, were called to investigate Mr. Covarrubias’ house because there was a butane honey Lab lab there.

“My understanding is BHO (butane honey, or hash, oil) is dangerous and my job was to make sure no one runs in the backyard. If someone tried to jump the fence my job was to let the other detectives know,” said Det. Perez.

Det. Perez stated that he knows who co-defendant Riley Perez is because apparently he arrested Mr. Perez in the past for stealing a “vehicle.” According to Det. Perez, when he saw Mr. Perez on October 29, 2015, Mr. Perez was under the fence of the backyard at Covarrubias’ house and it looked like “he was struggling to get free.” Det. Perez also pointed out that Mr. Perez had two cellphones that he tried to destroy.

“There were butane tanks just outside of the garage door. I saw a container of marijuana about my height, five to six feet, about the size of a coffee can in the garage. I never examined what was inside of it,” said Det. Perez.

Det. Perez then pointed out that, on November 6, 2015, he and other officers had a warrant to search Mr. Perez’s house.

“I found cannabis. I asked Mr. Perez about the butane honey lab and he did not know anything about it. He said that he may have touched it out of curiosity and [that] it’s a device used to extract orange peels,” said Det. Perez.

According to Det. Perez, another officer told him that they found a sheet filled with “Peyo.” Officer Perez then said that other officers notified him that there were kids in Covarrubias’ house – which is why they did the search, because they were concerned for the safety of the children, believing BHO labs are not safe.

Det. Perez then said that the two phones Mr. Perez tried to destroy were destroyed by the time they were recovered, and he gave them back to Mr. Perez the same evening. Det. Perez then discussed how he took a photograph of the two young children reaching the counter with the marijuana container on it, to show that they could reach the marijuana container.


Day Two

By Tiffany Yeh

Detective John Perez, of the Woodland Police Department, resumed his testimony. During the probation search of Israel Covarrubias’ residence, Det. Perez took a photo of the laptop on the desk on the east side of the living room. The laptop belonged to Amaris Rodriguez. Probation Officer Sergio Pimentel told Det. Perez that Ms. Rodriguez was on probation, as well.

During the probation search, cannabis concentrate was found on a computer desk in the living room, along with a torch. On the kitchen counter, there was concentrated cannabis.

Inside a cupboard, above the washing machine, there was a revolver. On the top ledge of the same cupboard there was a Glock pistol. In the garage, there were three garbage bags of marijuana shake (bits of marijuana that are of low quality.)

A blue plastic bin had marijuana in it. In the backyard, there was a propane tank, another tank, and a dollhouse.

Agent Byron Austin is with the CA Highway Patrol and has worked with YONET (Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team) since October of 2014. He has testified about people manufacturing honey oil a total of three times before today.

On October 29, 2015, Pimentel called Agent Austin and YONET to check out the residence. Austin described methods of manufacturing butane honey oil and concentrated marijuana.

In the garage of the Covarrubias residence, Austin described that there was a closed loop system consisting of multiple hoses, gaskets, clamps, vacuum pumps, and collection tanks. This type of system is used to manufacture butane honey oil and concentrated marijuana. Agent Austin did say that the closed loop system in the garage was missing a few gaskets, clamps, and attachments, so was not usable for manufacture of the oil.

There was marijuana in the five-foot tall extraction tube, all filled up. The condensed coil was in a bucket of ice and cold water, which is use to convert butane gas into butane liquid in ice water.

A solvent (butane or a different alcohol base) is used to strip tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from marijuana. THC is the psychoactive constituent that makes people feel the psychological effects of marijuana. Butane honey oil can contain 60-90% of THC.

Liquid goes through the extraction tube then later a substance drips out and is put into a vacuum-sealed collection pot, and butane honey oil is collected. Then another vacuum pump is in play. Later on in the process, an oven is used to extract the heat from the product. Butane honey oil is spread over wax or anti-stick paper. Pictures were taken, of the closed loop system in the garage, by officers during the search.

A black tub had marijuana shake in it (one fourth of the tub) and two bags had shake in it too. Shake, as indicated above,  is ground-up or low-quality bits of marijuana. A cardboard box had marijuana residue on it that appeared to be shake. A total of 32 pounds of shake (including the weight of the bags) was found.

Every ounce of marijuana can have two to six grams of butane honey oil in it. Butane honey oil out of the pot is $20/gram.

Butane honey wax (1.9 grams) was found in the house. About 4.5 grams of shatter (the heated up, higher quality product) was found in the cabinet and desk alone. In the neighbor’s backyard, two bags of “bud” were also found. Eight grams of butane honey oil was found on top of wax paper in the living room. Two digital scales were found in the kitchen. Thirty grams of concentrated cannabis total were found in the residence.

Butane is put into propane tanks in the process. Around 72 used cans of butane were found in the backyard of the residence. Even amounts of denominations of money were found ($20, $40, $60, and $100 in particular). A cash amount of $3,076 was found on Covarrubias.

Lined paper, listing items needed for the closed loop system, was found in the residence.

DA Investigator Aaron Moe was the last prosecution witness. He described a Woodland gang, “Varrio Bosque Norteño” (VBN), a sector of the Norteño gang.

Ms. Rodriguez was contacted by law enforcement several times. Prosecution had numerous photos of Ms. Rodriguez with “verified gang members,” such as the two defendants and a few other people. Pictures of her holding firearms (such as an AR-15 rifle and a Glock semi-automatic threaded barrel) were also found on her laptop during the October 29 probation search. In some of the pictures, she also had high capacity magazines. Videos were found of her recording pictures of promethazine cough medicine and baby bottles, including a video saying, “We don’t cut.”

A tattoo on her right wrist was cited as evidence of her gang member status.

Riley Perez’s contacts with law enforcement, including “gang-related crimes,” were also discussed, including a sale to undercover Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agents of a fully automatic assault rifle that he and Covarrubias had made. The ATF agents were working with the Woodland Police Department.

Perez’s tattoos (including VBN, outlines of California and of a grizzly bear, the number “530,” and Boston Red Sox “B” lettering) and association with other “verified gang members” were cited as evidence that he is a gang member. Mr. Perez was found fleeing the Covarrubias residence during the parole search, found stuck in a fence.

Covarrubias’ contacts with law enforcement were cited. Tattoos of “1,” “4,” and “VBN” were seen on him. The numbers “1” and “4” spell out “14,” standing for the 14th letter of the alphabet, “N,” for Norteño. His company with other “identified gang members” (seen on surveillance and through texts) was also cited. His texts were also looked through. He has “B” and “ES” (East Side) tattoos.

A text exchange between Ms. Rodriguez and Mr. Perez included Perez saying, “Need a gas tank,” and Rodriguez replying, “I can give it to you, are you going to blast today?”

Mr. Perez and Mr. Covarrubias were observed entering a butane honey oil (BHO) supply store for supplies for their closed loop BHO lab.

Judge Samuel T. McAdam held the three defendants to answer on many of the six total charges.

Israel Junior Covarrubias, Riley Josiah Perez, and Amaris Amiah Rodriguez were held to answer on the charges of criminal street gang activity, joint control of manufacturing and the sale of a controlled substance, and child endangerment.

Israel Junior Covarrubias and Amaris Amiah Rodriguez are also being held to answer on gun charges.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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