Police: Longview car lot a front for major drug operation

By Natalie St. John / The Daily News | Posted: Saturday, August 11, 2012 11:00 pm

A local car dealership may have been a front for a major drug-dealing operation. Longview police on Friday arrested five people suspected of playing a role in local meth sales, including Sidney Potts, owner of Potts Family Motors in Longview.

"This organization, led by Sid Potts is responsible for delivering several thousands worth of meth into the Kelso-Longview area on a weekly basis," Longview police Capt. Robert Huhta said in a phone interview Saturday.

Huhta said investigators believe the car dealership could have been used to launder money from a drug-dealing operation.

"We do have evidence that money was co-mingled through the business. We are looking at adding money laundering charges through the investigation," Huhta said.

Huhta said detectives from the street crimes and criminal investigations units began investigating the business several months ago, after receiving several tips indicating the owners could have ties to local drug trafficking.

"We started following up on those tips," Huhta said.

Working in collaboration with the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force, police arrested Sidney A. Potts, 61, during a planned traffic stop around noon on Friday.

Police then served three search warrants at Potts Family Motors at 411 Oregon Way, a warehouse at 1275 Alabama Street, and at Potts' home, in the 2000 block of Louisiana Street.

Potts was arrested on suspicion of leading organized crime, money laundering and three counts of delivery of methamphetamines. His partner, Diana L. Horner, 53, was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and money laundering; and his nephew, Joshua T. Potts, 35, was arrested on three counts of delivery of methamphetamine, and three counts of delivery within 1,000 feet of a school zone.

Later Friday, police arrested two additional suspects, Anjelita Llanes and Christian J. Velasquez, ages unavailable, on suspicion of conspiracy and possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver.

During the search of the three properties, detectives recovered from a vehicle "between three quarters of a pound to a pound of meth" with an estimated street value of at least $10,000, Huhta said. Police confiscated 25 vehicles and more than $33,000 in cash, as well as documents from the business and home that could supply evidence of the family's involvement in meth-dealing.

Huhta said the cars were seized because there is evidence that they were linked to the drug ring. "Some of the vehicles were directly involved in the delivery of drugs. Others were tied to the money that was co-mingled."

The arrests, which came about as the result of "a tremendous amount of work" done by police detectives and staff from the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum narcotics Task Force, are part of an ongoing investigation.

"This investigation doesn't end with these arrests," Huhta said. "I anticipate that several more arrests will occur."