On Tuesday, members of the Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office arrested an Humble I.S.D. first-grade teacher and three other people on multiple first-degree felony drug charges at an apartment complex in Porter. Weapons and other contraband were also discovered in the apartment.
The investigation began after multiple complaints regarding strange odors coming from an apartment in one of the three-story units at the Villas at Valley Ranch Apartments, off of the southbound US 59 feeder and almost directly across the street from Valley Ranch Elementary. The complainants were concerned the smell was related to illegal narcotics and said they noticed a large number of people visiting the apartment, at all hours of the day and night, for short periods of time.
Pct. 4 investigators responded to the residence and made contact with the occupants. They allowed deputies to go inside where plastic bags containing methamphetamine and black tar heroin were in plain view. The three residents, Monica Quintero, Andrew Zick and James Zipperer were on location, along with Mackinley Breeden of Humble.
Monica Quintero then gave consent for deputies to further search the residence, where they found over 100 grams of Heroin; 53 grams of GHB; 15.2 grams of liquid heroin, and numerous pills including Oxycontin, Xanax and Adderall.
Quintero is a bilingual, first-grade teacher at Ridge Creek Elementary in Humble I.S.D.
Inside Quintero and Zick’s bedroom, deputies found over a dozen small, stainless measuring cups containing liquid heroin, multiple syringes, two plastic bags containing methamphetamine, scales typical of those used to weigh illegal drugs.
Zick, a convicted felon, also had a box in the bedroom containing over $10,000 cash, a handgun (illegal, on account of Zick’s criminal record), and receipts for items purchased and used as precursors for the Heroin lab located in the kitchen area.
Zipperer, the third roommate, had over $1,000 cash and admitted trading illegal narcotics for valuables. In his room, deputies found black tar Heroin in solid and liquid form; multiple used and unused syringes, and yet more scales and plastic bags typical of those used to prepare illegal drugs for distribution. Some of the same items were found in Zipperer’s closet, which was locked by a digital deadbolt. Inside the closet, deputies also found a large vial of liquid GHB, pills, and six firearms, including a stolen 9 mm.
In the crowded living room, deputies found multiple items typically traded for illegal drugs because they can easily be converted to cash, such as small welding machines, air compressors, and many other tools. The frame of a stolen pistol with a loaded magazine was also recovered from the living room.
Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth Rowdy Hayden said the incident was unusual for more reasons than one.
“We’ve heard heroin was making a comeback in some areas, but until [Tuesday], we weren’t really seeing it in East County,” Hayden said. “It was disturbing to find a lab set up in a family apartment complex adjacent to a neighborhood and in such close proximity to an elementary school.”
“What’s more disturbing is learning the female suspect is a first grade teacher,” he said. “Apparently, Ms. Quintero was living a double life and now it has caught up with her.”
Constable Hayden said if anyone else is considering going into the heroin business, they should take note of the charges and penalties.
“We will not tolerate this poison in Precinct 4,” he said. “It not only increases the crime rate, it destroys lives and families and we’ll do whatever we have to in order to prevent that.”
Monica Lizbeth Quintero, 31, of 21899 Valley Ranch in Porter is charged with two counts of first-degree felony Manufacture / Delivery of a Controlled Substance. Her bond was set at $100,000.
Mackinley Breeden, 34, of 5922 Bent Tree court in Humble is charged with two counts of first-degree felony Manufacture / Delivery of a Controlled Substance. He remains held without bond.
James Robert Zipperer, 30, of 21899 Valley Ranch Crossing in Porter is charged with two counts of first-degree felony Manufacture / Delivery of a Controlled Substance. His bond was set at $100,000.
Andrew Barclay Zick, 31, of 21899 Valley Ranch Crossing, in Porter is charged with an outstanding warrant – 130808413 D359 Set Aside Bond; with first-degree felony Manufacture / Delivery of a Controlled Substance; and Unlawful Possession of Firearm by Felon.
Black Tar Heroin is the same drug that recently is suspected of killing actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Over the years, it has also claimed the lives of other public figures, such as John Belushi and Janis Joplin.
Since then, enforcement of other drugs such as Vicodin and Oxycontin have been the target of law enforcement crackdowns. However, Heroin use has increased and in some areas, as the cost is actually less that prescription pills.
A “stamp bag,” like the kind Hoffman had in his apartment, typically costs about $10 on the street. In New York City, a major center of the U.S. heroin trade, a bag can cost $6, or as little as $4 if purchased in bulk. That’s well within the reach of most people, both the curious novice and the hard-core addict. But by the time it reaches other points it can be as much as $30 to $40.
Why is heroin so relatively cheap? First, there’s a lot of supply these days, thanks largely to an increase in opium poppy production in Afghanistan. Opium — from which heroin is derived — is grown in Southeast Asia (mainly Burma) and pockets of Central Europe and South America. Mexico is an increasingly large producer and exporter, but Afghanistan is by far the world’s dominant supplier.
Afghanistan grew a record number of poppies in 2013, with opium production up an eye-popping 49 percent over 2012, Pentagon officials before a Senate committee in mid-January. Afghanistan’s 5,500 tons of opium was about 90 percent of the world’s supply last year. Not much of that opium makes it into the U.S. as heroin — only 4 percent of U.S. heroin came from Afghanistan last year, according to the DEA— but in a global market, a glut of product drives down prices. (Mexican heroin would probably cost more if Europe weren’t being flooded with Afghan drugs, for example.)
On a more mundane level, unlike with prescription drugs and even generics, there are no patents in the heroin trade. No drugmaker can artificially inflate prices to recoup research and development costs.
Finally, heroin bags are cheap because once the drug arrives in New York and other distribution hubs, it’s diluted with baking soda, lactose, or infant laxatives or other, cheaper drugs. The $10 stamp bags are about 25 percent pure heroine,
The deadliest additive at the moment appears to be fentanyl, a strong narcotic painkiller usually administered to cancer and other patients near the end of their life. In recent months, 22 people in the Pittsburgh area and 37 in Maryland died from fentanyl-cut heroin, and other states have reported small upticks. The last big surge was in 2005-06, when almost 1,000 died across the nation from heroin mixed with fentanyl ultimately traced to one Mexican factory. There may be another influx of cheap fentanyl on the market now.
Fentanyl isn’t only cheaper and fifty to eighty percent than heroin, it also prolongs the high. Users know this. “When someone knows that there are heroin bags that are killing people or making them overdose, then we know that those are the good bags,” a 19-year-old recovering heroin addict named James told CNN recently.