Northern California U.S. Attorney Dave Anderson announced in San Francisco Wednesday that federal prosecutors and agents are launching a major law enforcement initiative in the Tenderloin area of the city.
Anderson said the Tenderloin police district, which spans north and south of Market Street between the Civic Center and downtown, “has become a magnet for drug trafficking to an extraordinary extent.”
He said 15 assistant U.S. attorneys and investigators from more than a dozen agencies will concentrate on combating drug trafficking, gun offenses, human trafficking, benefits fraud and other federal crimes in the district.
“People living, working and visiting in the Tenderloin neighborhood should not be required to run a gauntlet of crimes,” Anderson said.
Anderson and Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Chris Nielsen, who heads the DEA’s regional office, also announced the unsealing of charges against 32 people accused of working in two different drug trafficking operations that were based in Oakland and sold drugs in the Tenderloin.
Nielsen said the two drug rings each provided housing in the East Bay for dealers, who were given allotments of drugs to sell each day and who commuted by BART or carpools to the Tenderloin to peddle heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl.
The drug sellers were “what one might call commuter drug dealers,” Nielsen said. Most of the drugs came from Mexico or Honduras, he said.
The alleged leaders of the two organizations were Andy Reanos-Moreno and Eduardo Alfonso Viera-Chirinos, according to federal criminal complaints filed on Aug. 1 and July 29 and made public Wednesday.
Nielsen said the investigation of the two groups began in 2017 and was carried out in cooperation with San Francisco and Richmond police. He said the two cases were the first time in his law enforcement experience that he had seen the model of the leaders of a drug ring renting housing to the drug sellers.
The residences included apartments and houses in Oakland, Hayward and elsewhere and as many as five dealers, sometimes with partners and children, lived in each unit, according to the complaints.
Nielsen said he could not say whether organizations using a similar model will take the place of the two groups now arrested.
“We will follow our investigation wherever it takes us,” he said.
The targeted Tenderloin area, as defined by the San Francisco Police Department’s Tenderloin Station District, encompasses about 50 square blocks between Geary Street on the north, Mission Street on the south, Polk Street on the west and Third Street on the east. Anderson said it has the greatest number of drug prosecutions of any section of the city. “
Street-level drug dealing appears to have become normalized here in the Tenderloin,” Nielsen said.
The area also contains the city’s highest concentration of school-age children, one of the highest densities of elderly people and several federal facilities including two U.S. courthouses for federal trial and appeals courts, Anderson said.
Anderson said the initiative “will not prosecute innocent homeless” people in the area and will focus on drug dealers rather than drug users.
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News