A man described as the son of a former Bolivian Embassy employe has been arrested and charged with selling an undercover D.C. police officer a kilogram of cocaine paste that the prosecutor said was brought in "straight from the jungles of Bolivia."
Officers said the arrest Thursday of Hermongenes Gironda, 32, and the seizure of an additional 1 3/4 pounds of cocaine paste marked the first time that form of the drug has been seized in the District.
Narcotics officers and a Drug Enforcement Administration chemist testified at a hearing that cocaine paste is an "unusually potent form" of the drug, and that a kilogram of the paste converts to more than a kilogram of cocaine powder. Authorities said the cocaine paste seized could yield drugs worth more than $500,000 on the streets.
Gironda, who worked as a caretaker of a Northwest Washington residence, was ordered held without bond yesterday by U.S. Magistrate Jean F. Dwyer. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McDaniel, who argued that Gironda would probably flee if released, said at the hearing that he entered the country eight years ago as a dependent of a Bolivian Embassy employe. The embassy employe was not identified, and McDaniel has said he was no longer here.
Dwyer also ordered the seizure of $46,000 that Gironda had in District banks. The FBI also seized a car for which Gironda recently paid $14,000 in cash. Gironda's attorney, Allen Dale, said Gironda told him he had saved the money from his $500-a-month wages.
"He is a world-class narcotics smuggler . . . who accumulated vast amounts of money . . . by dealing cocaine that is coming straight from the source," McDaniel said.
He said Gironda told FBI agents he had gone to his home in La Paz twice last year, returning with at least two kilograms each time.
D.C. vice officer Richard Watkins testified that Gironda promised to supply a kilogram of paste a week.
Gironda was arrested after a two-month investigation during which undercover officers made four purchases of cocaine paste, each time buying two ounces for $1,000, Watkins said.
He said undercover officer John R. Eisel met Gironda about 1 p.m. Thursday and they drove to the vicinity of Wisconsin and Western avenues. The officer showed Gironda $15,000 and was given a paper bag holding two plastic bags of cocaine paste, Watkins said.
FBI agents and police officers then arrested Gironda, Watkins said.
A search by authorities of the room in which Gironda lived at 4339 Garfield St. NW yielded the additional paste, Watkins said.
McDaniel said FBI agent Edward F. McLaughlin and 3rd District police Lt. James Dodson led the probe.
FBI agent John Dana testified that Gironda first said he had bought the cocaine paste in the Bolivian jungle and later that he bought it at a supermarket-style drug operation.
William R. Joyce Jr., a Washington lawyer for whom Giranda worked as a houseboy, said Gironda had returned to Joyce's Garfield Street house about nine months ago after an "unhappy employment situation."
"He was working for various diplomats" who apparently knew his father from the Bolivian Embassy, Joyce said. "I told him he could stay until he found more permanent employment."
Police sources said they believed Gironda's father had been employed by the Embassy of Bolivia, but had returned to South America. An embassy guard who said he had worked there for three years said he knew no Gironda.