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DEA arrests 2 women at San Francisco courthouse, DA drops local charges

Federal agents arrested two women who showed up at their criminal hearings at the San Francisco Hall of Justice on Thursday. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

Federal narcotics agents arrested two women who showed up at their criminal hearings in San Francisco court Thursday morning, prompting local prosecutors to drop charges against them. At least one of the women will now face federal charges for allegedly dealing fentanyl.

Plainclothes agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency appeared in the hallway at the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. to take the two women into custody, according to the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. The DEA confirmed that it arrested Larissa Yuriely Cruz-Velasquez and at least one other person at the courthouse.

Defendants accused of crimes in federal court can face deportation, depending on whether they are in the country legally. The immigration statuses of the people arrested Thursday are not known.

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Casey Rettig, a DEA spokesperson, said federal immigration authorities did not participate in the arrests. Rettig would not confirm the names of anyone else arrested.

The DEA agents were seen speaking with John Ullom, the head of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office narcotics unit, before court proceedings began for the day, said Valerie Ibarra, a spokesperson for the Public Defender’s Office.

After both women arrived at the courtroom, they were escorted into the hallway by agents and taken into custody, Ibarra said. Ullom then made an appearance at both of their hearings to dismiss the state charges against them, saying the federal charges superseded the local ones. The facts of their state cases were not immediately available.

The federal case against Cruz-Velasquez stems from her arrest just after 6 p.m. on Oct. 3 near Seventh and Mission streets, according to a criminal complaint filed against her Thursday. A Federal Protective Service inspector saw her exchange a bag for money from someone, the complaint says.

While the inspector attempted to detain the woman, she tried to run away but was caught after a short pursuit, according to the complaint. Authorities say they found her with six bags of cocaine base, fentanyl, methamphetamine and amphetamine as well as $673 and a digital scale.

According to Rettig, the DEA notified prosecutors with the District Attorney’s Office prior to Thursday’s arrests and that homeland security and immigration agencies were not involved. 

“We made the prosecutor aware, the district attorney, the day prior,” she said. “So they understood what was going to happen today.”

Her public defender was able to take a picture of the federal criminal complaint, Rettig said.

Ibarra said one of the women who was arrested was petitioning for primary care diversion, which is often used by people who are a child’s primary caretaker.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has been contacted for comment.

Joel Umanzor can be reached at jumanzor@sfstandard.com
Michael Barba can be reached at mbarba@sfstandard.com