Highlighted cases of Patrick Vanier


Norteno Gang

In 2003, a well known Norteno gang leader in the City of Pittsburg, was under investigation by Pittsburg PD, Antioch PD, Concord PD and the Sheriff’s Department for narcotics trafficking.  At the time this gang leader controlled the sale of drugs along West Blvd. corridor in Pittsburg.  Each of these agencies had independent investigations pending.  Each investigation was challenging as the gang leader would use female minors to assist him in running drugs.  Several of the cases generated, large quantities of methamphetamine were recovered, but always in the possession of the minor.  In one instance, the gang leader was driving the car and as the police effectuated a car stop, he hands off the pound of meth to his 16 year old girlfriend.  Vanier was assigned each of the investigations to develop a strategy.  By themselves little could be filed criminally against him.  Coordinating each of the investigations into one and developing an action plan resulted in a strategic approach that dismantled his gang by arresting several of his West Blvd. gang members and convincing the underage female women to cooperate.  When the gang leader learned that police were targeting his crew and he could potentially be charged with having sex with minors, he placed his 16 year old girlfriend in hiding in Las Vegas with his family members.  Vanier and DA investigator Steve Lynn figure this out and obtained a warrant for her return to California.  They flew down to pick her up and brought her back where she ultimately cooperated with the investigation.  This gang leader was convicted of being a member of an organized criminal street gang, narcotics trafficking, witness intimidation, illegal sex with a minor and other crimes. 

Project Trojan (PJT) Gang

Vanier also prosecuted many gang members for illegal sales of drugs and weapon offenses.  One of the most serious happened in 2003 involved several PJT gang members getting into a turf war over the heroin trafficking in North Richmond.  After the exchange of gun fire from a full automatic assault weapon, a Richmond Police Officer responded.  Interrupting the flight of the two shooters trying to flee the scene in a vehicle, one of the two PJT gang members drew the gun on the officer within a distance of 25 feet.  The officer in her car and no weapon in hand, had to surrender and let the gang members flee.  A man hunt ensued.  The driver was ultimately captured and prosecuted with his wife, a City of Richmond employee, who tried to cover-up the crime.  The gangster who committed the assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer was captured more than a year later in a gang neighborhood in South Central LA.  He had drugs and a gun on him at the time.  The Richmond case resulted in the seizure of a large quantity of heroin in a drug house close to the shooting, large amounts of money and other drug related evidence.

Meth Labs

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Contra Costa County was plagued by hundreds of methamphetamine labs.  As a result of chemical supply business and the accessibility of pseudoephedrine from drug stores, it was easy to manufacture meth in Contra Costa at the time. A large percentage of Vanier’s cases involved prosecuting offenders for manufacturing meth. Vanier convicted dozens of offenders for this crime that placed the environment and public safety at risk.  Patrick tried numerous meth labs and to this day still teaches the young attorneys he supervises in Santa Clara County how to prosecute these unique crimes. 

Over the years Patrick has become an expert on Mexican National Drug Cartels.  Specifically how methamphetamine is produced in Mexico and shipped to the U.S. for refinement.  While in Santa Clara County Patrick has prosecuted Super Labs involving the production and refinement of hundreds of pounds of meth.  As result of his experience he has presented his knowledge to a variety of interested groups and the Director of the Academy Award Nominated Documentary “Cartel Land.”  Patrick sat on a Q & A panel for the San Francisco Screening for Cartel Land for the San Francisco Film Society.

First wiretap - Pseudoephedrine trafficking

Vanier worked his first wiretap case at the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office on a middle-eastern cell trafficking large quantities of pseudoephedrine (the precursor materials used in the manufacturing of meth) out of convenience stores in West Contra Costa County.                        

The first wiretap case Vanier managed in Santa Clara County involved a cocaine distribution cell tied to the La Familia Drug Cartel.  The investigation began in 2008 and it involved the trafficking of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Santa Clara/Alameda Counties to locations throughout the Bay Area and the United States.  While wiretap evidence proved hundreds of kilos of cocaine were shipped regularly and the investigation seized almost 200 kilograms of cocaine, various quantities of heroin and meth, over 1 million dollars in U.S. currency and various weapons including an assault weapon with a silencer.  The investigation also discovered a sophisticated conspiracy to kidnap and murder individuals involved in trafficking of drugs.  One kidnap victim was located by law enforcement.  At the end of the investigation 20 suspects were arrested and prosecuted as part of this organization to traffic drugs and acts of violence associated with the organization. Vanier spent more than four years prosecuting this case, managing all litigation, strategic planning with the investigation.

2012 – Largest meth seizure in U.S. history

During the course of investigating a string of burglaries, the police department uncovered a major methamphetamine distribution operation.  DEA and DDA Vanier took over the investigation that involved, at the time, the single largest methamphetamine seizure in U.S. history.  In total 748 lbs. of methamphetamine was recovered in a condo in San Jose, CA.  While four people were arrested for running a methamphetamine depot, sending drugs to locations all over the country, DEA and DDA Vanier began to investigate the Cartel responsible and the cell leader who managing it.  Again, wiretapping became the tools.  Vanier learned that the depot was managed by the Los Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) Drug Cartel tied back to Michoacan, Mexico. The ring leader and three associates were ultimately arrested.  The group was prosecuted for drug sales, distribution and manufacturing, child endangerment, and participating in an Organized Criminal Street Gang.  This was one of the first prosecutions in Northern California in which a cartel was prosecuted as an Organized Criminal Street Gang under state law.  The intelligence gathered resulted in several successful spin-off investigations into the same organization.

Drug Trafficking Organizations

In December of 2010, DEA and DDA Vanier worked an investigation into another major drug trafficker tied to the La Familia drug trafficking organization (DTO), who was responsible for trafficking hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine throughout the Bay Area.  As the investigation began to unfold in January of 2011, DEA and Vanier learned of a triple homicide at the Mexicali Night Club in San Jose.  DEA and Vanier discovered that the homicide was a botched kidnapping of the nightclub owner because of a million dollar drug debt owed to the cartel.  The trafficker was responsible for collecting the debt and hired six men to kidnap the bar owner at the behest of the Mexico DTO.  During the kidnapping, a shoot out occurred with the kidnappers and the bodyguard of the bar owner.  Three people died.  Another was shot six times and survived.  As a result of the botched kidnapping, the trafficker fled to Mexico.  He then began to run his organization from Mexico.  Vanier and DEA began wiretapping his organization and seized several shipments of methamphetamine coming across the border into the U.S. and two meth labs.  Over eight months, the investigative team dismantled his organization in the U.S.  More than 15 people were arrested and prosecuted for murder and drug trafficking charges.  The trafficker is currently in a Mexican prison awaiting extradition to the U.S.

Fatal DUI

In January of 2006, after a night of heavy drinking, a man drove his full size Dodge Ram pick-up truck home from a bar.  During his drive home he ran a stop sign in Sunnyvale, CA and hit the broad side of a Honda Civic carrying four passengers.  Three of the four occupants were seriously injured.  The fourth, a 14 year old young woman, was pronounced dead at the scene.  The driver of the truck fled the scene after the accident.  He never stopped.  Witness accounts provided brief details of the vehicle description.  No license plate was obtained.  The driver of the truck went home and the next morning he reported his vehicle stolen.  He was still drunk that morning when he talked to investigators about his “stolen” truck, putting his BA at .04.  The truck was found several hours later blocks away from his house.  Physical evidence connected his truck to the auto accident involving the vehicle.  Investigators and DDA Vanier worked the case.  Investigators obtained his clothing from his house.  Phone analysis placed him along the path of the accident at the time of the accident.  Glass removed from his cowboy hat (taken from his house) when analyzed matched the victim vehicle.  The difficult part of the case involved establishing the driver as DUI.  DDA Vanier and investigators located witnesses from his phone call history and talking to bar employees to establish a pattern of drinking the night of the accident.  More than 20 individual alcoholic drinks over a four hour period was established putting his BA over a .20 at the time of the accident.  At trial he was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison. 

Exploitation of a Minor

In 2006, DDA Vanier and the Los Gatos Police Department worked an investigation into a San Francisco gang member.  At the time the gang member was prostituting a 14 year old run away from East Palo Alto.  He came to the attention of the LGPD when detectives investigated a home invasion robbery of two men, one was severely beaten by him.  The two men were attempting to order up an escort off of Craiglists but when they realized the escort appeared young, tried to cancel the appointment.  When they refused the cancelation fee, he assaulted the men, leaving one with a crushed orbital socket and jaw.  LGPD worked with DDA Vanier to ultimately find the gang member as the responsible party.  When it was discovered that he was a gang member out of San Francisco and he was pimping out minors, the investigation expanded to even more serious offenses.  The gang member was charged and convicted of pimping of a minor, mayhem, gang crimes, robbery, gun possession offenses, witness intimidation and other serious offense.  He received 16 years in prison.

Gang of Thrones Case

Vanier and his team working with San Jose Police Department and DEA, to dismantle a violent Vietnamese Gang responsible for homicides, attempted murder, extortion, illegal gambling operations, bribing law enforcement officers, public corruption and trafficking cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana.  Gang of Thrones resulted in the arrest of 24 gang members/associate gang members including one SJPD officer; 130,000 pills of ecstasy valued at over $100,000; over 800 lbs. of marijuana and a distribution operation to Louisiana in which over 25 million dollars of product had been shipped, 50 illegal gambling machines and the seizure of $400,000 in drug proceeds. The cases generated from this complex investigation are currently being prosecuted by Vanier’s team.