Authorities: Cocaine kingpin arrested in Ore. bust

from Associated Press
October 26, 2009


Law enforcement officials in the Portland area believe they have toppled a Northwest drug kingpin.

The Metro Gang Task Force alleges that James Yoakum ran a Crips gang cocaine-trafficking ring and used a Portland barbecue restaurant as a front to launder money.

Yoakum, 58, has pleaded not guilty in federal court to conspiracy to distribute, possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine.

Federal agents and local gang investigators arrested 19 people, seized pounds of cocaine and more than $100,000 in cash during their 10-month investigation. In all, 24 people have been indicted. Police expect more arrests.

Agents used wiretaps and round-the-clock surveillance to keep tabs on the operation that investigators believe put $300,000 worth of cocaine on the street every month.

At a press conference Monday, federal and local law enforcement agencies displayed 35 guns, 10 pounds of powder cocaine, four pounds of crack cocaine and other contraband.

Investigators say wiretaps on Yoakum’s cell phone allowed officers to listen to one of Yoakum’s sons, Lonnell George, 19, call for help minutes after he was involved in an Aug. 20 shooting that left a rival gang member wounded.

Police followed James Yoakum as he picked up his son and drove him out of state. George was later arrested in Seattle.

A second son, Jaricho Yoakum, 27, was arrested in Portland, sought on a California warrant accusing him of robbing medical marijuana clinics in Los Angeles. On his MySpace page, Jaricho Yoakum lists his general interest as “money” and his heroes as “Bill Gates and my dad.”

James Yoakum’s attorney, John S. Ransom, said he’s aware the case involved wiretaps but he hasn’t seen any reports.

Investigators say Yoakum was involved in drug trafficking in Los Angeles and continued when he moved north to Oregon in the 1980s. Eight years ago, he was convicted in a multidefendant conspiracy case in California of funneling cocaine from Los Angeles to Detroit, The Oregonian newspaper reported. After a stint in prison, he returned to Oregon.

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