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Three arrested in Walnut Creek drug crackdown

Two men and one woman are facing drug charges and Walnut Creek police say more arrests are “imminent” as part of an investigation into drug dealing in the city’s downtown area.

Walnut Creek police say they arrested the three after several months of investigating drug trafficking in the city’s downtown nightclubs, bars and restaurants.  Part of that investigation focused on the Lift Lounge & Grill — an establishment that had previously gained the scrutiny of city officials because of crime and other problems associated with the club.

Police Lt. Steve Gorski said in a statement:

“Much of the illegal activity has been focused in and around 1321 Locust Street (Lift Lounge) and several other establishments in the downtown area.  Investigators conducting surveillance have witnessed drug transactions occurring inside Lift Lounge and in the adjacent parking lot.”

In announcing the arrests Wednesday evening,  Gorski says 25-year-old Brittany Borgognone, of Walnut Creek, and 44-year-old Hector Rodriguez, of Martinez, were arrested earlier this month.

A third suspect, 24-year-old, Benyam Yohannes, of Walnut Creek, was arrested sometime earlier this year.

Yohannes has been charged with possession and transportation of cocaine for sale.  Borgognone and Rodriguez have been released from custody, but police say criminal complaints are expected to filed against them in the coming days.

As part of their investigation, police say they seized just under one pound of cocaine and smaller amounts of concentrated cannabis and marijuana, additional evidence and contraband.

Gorski also said:

“Although more arrests are imminent, those announced today will help erode the supply of illegal narcotics coming into the downtown area of Walnut Creek.”

The Lift Lounge — one of a number of busy bars and restaurants in Walnut Creek’s vibrant but occasionally troubled downtown area — is described on its website as “Walnut Creek’s premiere stop for unwinding after a busy day or a busy week.”

But that’s a vastly different description from a 2012 report by the city’s Planning Commission.  In the report commission staffers, noting the numerous police calls and other problems at the bar and restaurant, described it as a “detriment to the public health, safety, and welfare’.”

The city that year had ordered the club to implement an earlier cut-off time, or to stop serving alcohol at an earlier time of night, but later that year the commission allowed the club to revert back to a later time.

A person answering the phone the lounge Wednesday night told SFBAY.Ca he knew nothing about the arrests and declined further comment.

John Marshall is an SFBay editor and producer and writer for San Francisco’s KGO Radio.  Follow him on Twitter @breakingnewsman.

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