With help from a confidential informant, Homeland Security agents orchestrated a sting operation that ended in two local arrests.
The bust's seeds were planted in November, when the informant scheduled a string of meetings with Angel Nava and Francisco Jose Paz, who are both "under investigation for drug-trafficking activity," according to a complaint filed Friday in the U.S. District Court of Northern California.
The trio allegedly discussed smuggling a shipment of MDMA into America. Last Monday, the informant and Paz met at a Burger King in Washington state, near the Canadian border. According to federal prosecutors, Paz "instructed the CI [confidential informant] to deliver the drugs to San Francisco for a payment of $27,000."
That evening, the informant met an unknown person on the American side of the border. The person allegedly gave him two duffel bags containing 28.24 kilograms (62.25 pounds) of powdered MDMA.
As the informant drove south, feds say that Nava instructed him to go to San Rafael, where he would "utilize a rental vehicle that would be left with the keys and unoccupied in an area to be determined." From there, a woman would pick up and return the rental car.
At this point, federal authorities switched out the real drugs for a fake product and stuck a GPS device inside the bag. On Thursday morning, the informant parked the rental car in the lot of a Best Western in Novato. According to the complaint, Meghan Grudzien then called the informant, explaining that she would pick up the rental.
A few minutes later, she and Paul Grudzien allegedly parked their car, a Volkswagen Touareg, two spaces from the rental, picked up the keys that were sitting on the rental's front tire, took out the black duffel bag in the trunk, tossed it into the backseat of the car they arrived in, and then left.
A surveillance team followed the pair to a residential neighborhood. According to court documents, the Grudziens parked in a driveway beside a Volkswagen Passat, went inside the residence for about 10 minutes, then returned to the car. The agents saw the Touareg's trunk open and close, and they saw the pair pile back into the Touareg and drive off.
But they didn't see much more.
"Due to the layout of the court and the positioning of the agents," the complaint states, "they were not able to maintain constant surveillance of the Passat or the residence."
Within an hour, highway patrol officers pulled over the car. They searched it, and opened the black duffel bag in the trunk.
"The MDMA substitute was no longer present in the bag or vehicle," says the complaint. "The GPS tracking devise had been rendered inoperable."
Meghan and Paul Grudzien were arrested and have been charged with possession and intent to distribute the MDMA.