Local agencies aid in capture of drug cartel - The Explorer: News

Local agencies aid in capture of drug cartel

Group smuggling cocaine for more than two years

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Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 3:00 am

The Oro Valley and Marana police departments were part of a statewide investigation that led to the Attorney General’s office arresting 17 of 23 suspects involved in a “large-scale cocaine trafficking organization.”

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced the arrests on Sept. 30, following a lengthy investigation involving multiple state agencies.

While Lt. John Teachout confirmed the Oro Valley police participated in the investigation, he could not say to what extent because it is an ongoing case.

About 10 Marana police officers were called on to provide support help, according to Marana police Sgt. Tim Brunenkant.

“We assisted in serving the search warrants and with perimeter security,” he noted.

According to Horne, the trafficking organization smuggled more than 1,300 kilograms of cocaine into the United States since April of this year. The estimated street value of the drug is between $25.6 million and $33.8 million.

“This operation has dismantled a very sophisticated and large-scale cocaine smuggling enterprise,” said Horne. “Because of the diligent and efficient work of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the assisting agencies, this organization has now been dismantled.”

According to the AG’s office, the Mexican drug cartel has been smuggling cocaine into the country for more than two years through the Nogales Port of Entry.

The smuggling organization used three separate vehicles with hidden compartments to smuggle 35 kilograms into the country per day, three times a week. Using the same vehicles, the organization smuggled large amounts of U.S. currency back into Mexico.

Once the drugs were successfully brought into the U.S., they were being stored at stash houses throughout the Phoenix area.

“The DEA and our partners continue to go after high-level drug smuggling organizations that choose to break our laws, peddle their poisons, and prey upon the weakness of others,” said Doug Coleman, the DEA acting special agent in charge. “We have seized their dugs, money, properties and cars. But, most importantly, we have ruptured their drug pipeline. The DEA will not stop until these criminals are where they belong – behind bars.”

On Sept. 21, simultaneous search and arrest warrants were executed on suspected members of the drug trafficking organization, and their stash houses.

Approximately 37 kilograms of cocaine were seized, along with $262,63 in U.S. currency.

The 23 suspected members were indicted on charges of illegally conducting an enterprise conspiracy, transportation of cocaine for sale, money laundering, participating in a criminal syndicate, use of a wire communication or electronic communication in a drug-related transaction.

Authorities in the ongoing investigation are not identifying the remaining six suspects because grand jury secrecy requires their names be withheld until they are properly served.

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