Berkeley apartment complex now linked to 3 big drug busts

The same South Berkeley apartment complex near Ashby BART has come up several times in major law enforcement operations.

Berkeley apartment complex now linked to 3 big drug busts
Drugs seized at 2130 Ashby Ave. during the Melvin Diaz arrest. U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District

A man was sent to prison last week after stashing firearms and nearly 15 pounds of fentanyl in a South Berkeley apartment complex — but it wasn't the first time authorities made significant arrests there, The Scanner has learned.

Last week, federal prosecutors announced that Melvin Alexis Diaz Arteaga, a 30-year-old Honduran native, had been sentenced to 6.5 years in federal prison after entering guilty pleas in the case last year.

Diaz was arrested in November 2022 outside his South Berkeley "stash house," the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California said.

Inside the stash house, officers seized "two firearms, cash, and drug manufacturing and processing equipment" in addition to nearly 15 pounds of fentanyl, not to mention "lesser quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine" and other drugs, prosecutors said.

The announcement did not identify the apartment complex, but The Scanner was able to confirm that it was located at 2130 Ashby Ave., less than two blocks east of the Ashby BART station.

Residents there said they did not see Diaz get arrested on Nov. 16, 2022 — but had seen drug enforcement agents there previously.

DEA, police raid at 2130 Ashby Ave.

The DEA also raided 2130 Ashby Ave. in 2020 as part of a joint operation with the San Ramon Police Department.

In December 2020, San Ramon PD wrote on Facebook that it had "assisted the Oakland DEA with a takedown operation of a fentanyl trafficking organization distributing throughout the Bay Area."

That case had started in San Ramon in 2018 with a San Ramon officer who had been assigned to the DEA Task Force, SRPD wrote.

On Dec. 10, 2020, officers and agents had arrested six people "and seized approximately 4 pounds of fentanyl, 1.5 pounds of black tar heroin, 1 pound of brown powered heroin, a half pound of methamphetamine, and several ounces of cocaine," the San Ramon Police Department wrote.

San Ramon did not identify the locations of the arrests, but one of them was the complex at 2130 Ashby Ave. in Berkeley, residents said.

One former resident of the apartments, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Scanner that multiple officers had started knocking loudly at about 3 a.m. ordering her neighbors to "open up" and come outside.

"It was crazy," she said. "I've never experienced anything like that."

She said the complex had been somewhat sketchy but that the neighbors who were the target in the 2020 raid had been "pretty quiet."

"I didn't really suspect anything," she said.

Ordonez brothers also busted at 2130 Ashby

The apartment complex at 2130 Ashby Ave. Google Street View

The names of the individuals arrested that day were unavailable but, in April 2022, police arrested teenage brothers David Ordonez and Juan Carlos Hernandez-Ordonez at 2130 Ashby Ave. in Berkeley.

Prosecutors said that Ordonez, then 19, ran from police with a backpack holding nearly 2.5 pounds of fentanyl and other illegal drugs when they went to arrest him on April 19, 2022.

As with the Melvin Diaz case, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the San Francisco Police Department teamed up for the investigation.

In both cases, the defendants were charged with taking drugs from their Berkeley apartment at 2130 Ashby Ave. to sell in the "open-air illegal drug market" of the Tenderloin.

The Ordonez brothers ultimately pleaded guilty in the narcotics trafficking case. One was sent to prison for 48 months and the other for 18 months.

In recent years, a different tenant of 2130 Ashby described finding a backpack full of illegal drugs, along with another backpack containing a saw of some kind, perhaps related to catalytic converter thefts, while taking out the trash.

The tenant turned over the backpacks to the Berkeley Police Department, which no longer has a unit focused on narcotics investigations.

Most of the neighbors at the complex now seem to be law-abiding tenants, the resident noted, but there was one unit that, as of last week, still seemed questionable.

"They hardly come out and they keep the curtains drawn," the resident said. "When they do come out, they have black backpacks and they're headed for BART."

The landlord for 2130 Ashby Ave. did not respond to a request for comment last week.

Over the weekend, the tenants from the "stash house" apartment packed up their belongings and moved out.

Reader inquiries resulted in this report. Have questions about crime in Berkeley? Alert The Berkeley Scanner.