BATON ROUGE – From the outside, the home on East Lakeshore Drive appeared to be nothing more than another upscale address that fronted University Lake.
Inside, though, it was a different story.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were stashed in vents and hidden inside of columns. Guns of all shapes and sizes were placed through the home, all in an effort to protect the cash.
That money was collected over several years as the occupants ran a drug ring that apparently operated from the home.
Those details, and others, are spelled out in a sprawling 22-count indictment that was recently unsealed.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Baton Rouge announced half-a-dozen arrests for various charges, including drug trafficking and firearm offenses.
Those booked were:
-Francisco Palma, 42
-Marco Antonio Filos, 42
-Juan Villareal, 37
-Richard Antunez, 33
-Clarence Corey Anderson, 44
-Brittany Adell Allison, 33
“It’s shocking. I would want to see this in a show. I’m shocked something like this surfaced and it just goes to show you things can happen anywhere even in pretty neighborhoods,” Anissa Hyde, who was walking near the lake told WBRZ.
The indictment largely focuses on Palma and Allison, who prosecutors allege lived in the home on East Lakeshore Drive. It’s from there that they would regularly travel to Mexico to buy cocaine and heroin, prosecutors say, between October 2017 and January 2019.
There were also trips to Houston to buy drugs, and steps taken to avoid being discovered by law enforcement.
Those drugs were eventually sold in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and elsewhere.
Prosecutors say Palma and Villareal would provide each other with drugs if one or the other ran low before new shipments arrived.
Antunez allegedly sold the drugs for thousands of dollars across Baton Rouge, including at a car wash on Siegen Lane and the parking lot at the Mall of Louisiana.
Palma would meet Antunez to collect the cash from the drug sales. In one instance, Antunez had a “small child” with him at an auto parts store on Airline Highway while dropping off the money and picking up more than half a pound of cocaine to sell, the feds say.
There are allegations in the indictment of complaints about the quality of drugs, which customers “tested,” and concerns about violence when buyers owed money. One customer, identified as “Josh” was said to be in debt but someone Filos needed to be “careful” dealing with.
The drugs that were sold were stored in Palma’s and Allison’s rental home on East Lakeshore Drive, according to the indictment. Sometimes they were placed outside to be picked up.
Inside, Palma had a small arsenal, prosecutors say, including pistols, revolvers and a shotgun. Those guns were there “in order to protect the drug proceeds hidden within the residence.”
And there was plenty of cash to protect, prosecutors said.
Palma once called Allison and told her to get $2,500 from money that was hidden in a vent so he could renew the insurance on the home. “Palma instructed Allison to use the ‘nice’ hundred dollar bills, not just twenty dollar bills, and to put them into an envelope and deliver it to their landlord,” the indictment reads.
Prosecutors said that Palma and Allison had “$228,880 of illegal drug proceeds concealed inside a column in the formal living room of their home on East Lakeshore Drive. Palma also possessed $24,230 of illegal drug proceeds in his vehicle.”
The house has since been torn down.
According to the indictment, Palma used $11,000 in drug money as a down payment on a Rolls Royce.
While it’s not clear how authorities zeroed in on the ring, the threat of being found out was never far from the defendants’ minds.
“Palma, Villareal, Antunez, Filos and Anderson took actions to evade law enforcement and protect the drug trafficking venture, including talking in code, looking out for and warning each other of police presence in the area, and hiding the cocaine, heroin, and cash proceeds,” prosecutors wrote.
In 2014, film crews also shot a scene for ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ at the house, though it appears there was no sign of criminal activity there at that time. Ownership of the property changed hands in December 2014 and again in 2020, after the bust.