Restaurant owner sentenced in heroin case

DEA: 'Primary distributor for Eastside and beyond'


SAN ANTONIO – Standing at the counter of Anna's Restaurant in the 2400 block of E. Houston, Ernest Zapata had little to say except that he will begin serving his 51-month prison sentence in November, after being convicted of being the prime distributor high-quality Mexican heroin.

Mauricio Fernandez, assistant special agent in charge of the San Antonio office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said Zapata used Anna's Restaurant for five years as his base, where undercover agents made numerous buys of "chiva," street slang for heroin.

"It was infesting not only the area of the Eastside of San Antonio, but other areas of the city and beyond," Fernandez said.

He said Zapata was part of a brazen 20-year operation.

Fernandez said its 70-year-old mastermind, Manuel Rios, and another man await sentencing this fall.

"We have evidence of them distributing some of these drugs, utilizing infants, putting the drugs in diapers," Fernandez said.

DEA and SAPD announced the takedown of six defendants last year, including Zapata's daughter, who is already serving a four-year prison sentence, and his son-in-law, who will serve 27 months for selling heroin from a home near an elementary school.

The same federal judge also sentenced a third defendant to five years probation.

"We have effectively rooted out the sources, domestic sources of the heroin," Fernandez said.

Fernandez said he also had a message for the honest, hardworking people living in that community.

"They should know that we're vigilant," Fernandez said to make certain those engaging in illegal activity, pay the price.