Waterford furniture store center of drug investigation

(WXYZ) - When you looked at the outside of Oakland Furniture in Waterford on M-59, it appeared to be a legitimate business. 

It had a nice sign, a phone number, a storefront, but Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations Agents say the store may have never sold a single piece of furniture.

The reason?  It may not have really been a furniture store.

Now that three men have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial for what was happening at that store, investigators are releasing never before seen video and picture evidence.

“It appears this was nothing more than a front,” said William Hayes, Deputy Special Agent in Charge for ICE HSI.  “The business was set up in July 2012 and never did any legit business.”

It did, however, place an order in November 2012.

A truck from Mexico was trying to enter the country at an international crossing in Laredo, Texas.  According to documents, it was bringing in about 114 pieces of furniture for Oakland Furniture, but the furniture didn’t look right.

Border Patrol Agents looked closer and found marijuana was hidden inside that furniture.

“It was determined it was just shy of 3000 pounds with a street value of  $2.1 million,” said Hayes

 Instead of seizing it and closing their investigation, undercover investigators with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations made the delivery to the business in Waterford listed in paperwork. 

They then watched as three men started tearing the furniture apart and removing the marijuana.

“Obviously you wouldn’t rip it apart unless you knew it contained something-- in this case the contraband marijuana,” said Hayes.

Two of the men Jorge Cruz-Diaz, 34, and Jesus Sanchez-Ramirez, 32, both nationals of Mexico pleaded guilty.  They will each serve several years in prison and then face deportation.  Jesus Hernandez, 34, was the last of three defendants involved in this case. He was convicted at trial and is scheduled for sentencing July 17. He faces a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in federal prison and fines.