By Bob Uphues
Riverside police say they've shutdown a "major drug operation" after officers responded to a Forest Avenue apartment for a reported burglary in progress on the afternoon of Aug. 29.
Arturo Rodallegas, 26, who reportedly told police he turned to selling drugs after failing to find a job as a teacher, faces four felony drug charges including one Class X charge for manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance that could land him in prison for up to 30 years, if convicted.
Police reported recovering four pounds of cannabis packaged for delivery, more than 8,800 Xanax pills packaged for delivery, two loaded handguns and items associated with drug packaging, including scales, vacuum sealers and ledgers used for tracking drug sales to customers in California.
According to police, the estimated street value of the drugs seized in the apartment was about $60,000.
While there was, indeed, a break-in – someone kicked-in the rear door to the apartment and a stole a safe full of cash and drugs, police said – officers responding to the scene at about 4:10 p.m. didn't find a burglar at the scene.
But, police might not have known about the break-in at all if Rodallegas hadn't installed a sophisticated alarm system, one that prompted a third-party vendor to notify local police that it had been triggered.
"It really wasn't his day when somebody broke into his home, stole his cash and then Riverside police responded to a burglary in progress and ended up finding the drug operation," said Weitzel in a press release.
When officers arrived, they observed the kicked-in door and entered the apartment to apprehend an offender they believed was still inside, said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel. Instead, police were met by what Weitzel called a "tremendous, overwhelming smell of cannabis" and by drug paraphernalia.
Meanwhile, Weitzel said, Rodallegas learned of the break-in because the alarm system alerted his cellphone, which also allowed him to view video from inside his apartment. When he saw police inside his apartment he left his job in Rosemont and went home, where he was immediately detained by police for the investigation.
Two hours later, Riverside police obtained a search warrant and re-entered Rodallegas' apartment, where they reported seizing the drugs, paraphernalia and weapons.
Weitzel said the handguns did not appear to be stolen and Rodallegas had firearms owner identification. However, Riverside police enlisted the ATF to trace the weapons, because Rodallegas reportedly told police he bought the guns on the street because he needed them for protection. He also owned a bullet-proof vest, police said.
Riverside police continue to investigate the burglary and are seeking a search warrant for the alarm system's video recordings from inside the apartment.
Rodallegas, who has no prior criminal record, reportedly moved into the Riverside apartment in July. He previously lived in Cicero, according to police.