YOU ARE HERE: Glendale HomeCollectionsOpium

Alleged ring put out of business

April 15, 2004

Darleene Barrientos

Three Glendale residents and their business associates will face

charges Wednesday of importing, transporting and conspiring to sell

opium from their businesses after a six-month investigation by

Glendale Police.

Eight people were charged Tuesday for a range of offenses from

possession of opium for sale and transport, to conspiracy to sell


opium. The defendants included Glendale residents Alfred Avans Der

Gregorian, 61, and his son, Alain Avans Der Gregorian, 35, the

alleged ringleaders of the operation. Others charged are Sarhadoun

Baitzaya, 46; Jakob Yakhobzadeghan, 44, of Los Angeles; Behnam Azimi,

44, of Pasadena; Saied Hamadani, 49, of North Hollywood; Bijan

Yousefi, 46, of Encino and Soleman Yshar, 47, of Beverly Hills.

"Opium is a very addictive drug, a very destructive drug. It's a

menace to our community and there's a strong presence of it in

Glendale," Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams said.

Each of the defendants was charged with conspiracy and a total of

20 drug-related charges, with the exception of Yousefi and Hamadani,

who were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit a crime. Bail

for each defendant ranged from $500,000 to $1 million.

Several of the defendants were associates of the elder Der

Gregorian, and owned businesses in the garment district of Los

Angeles, where they allegedly made many drug transactions, Glendale

Police Investigator Joe Allen said.

The case began on a tip from a resident, Glendale Police Lt. Gary

Montecuollo said. During the investigation, 31 search warrants and 10

arrest warrants were issued and $150,000 in cash was seized, along

with 15 pounds of opium, with a street value of $1 million.

The fall of the alleged opium ring was the result of a six-month

investigation by Glendale Police, U.S. Immigration and Customs

Enforcement and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office,

Adams said. When investigators discovered the opium originated from

Afghanistan and Mexico, Glendale Police asked U.S. Immigration and

Customs Enforcement agents for help with the case's money laundering

and drug importation aspects.

Evidence of terrorism was not found, Montecuollo said.

The case is the second alleged opium ring that Glendale Police

have put out of action in less than a year. In August, Glendale

Police's vice/narcotics unit and members of the Drug Enforcement

Administration wrapped up a case involving 15 suspects from Glendale,

Burbank, La Canada Flintridge and the San Fernando Valley, who were

allegedly smuggling opium into the country from Afghanistan. About 88

pounds of raw opium, worth $10 million, $16,000 in cash and several

handguns were seized in that case, which is being prosecuted by the

federal government.

Glendale News-Press Articles Glendale News-Press Articles