Authorities Arrest at Least 70 Suspected Drug Smugglers in Major Bust in Arizona
Published October 31, 2011
Authorities have reportedly seized thousands of pounds of narcotics and arrested 70 suspected drug smugglers in what they're calling one of the biggest narcotics trafficking rings ever dismantled in Arizona.
An official close to the investigation told Reuters that the suspects arrested in Arizona have ties to a violent drug cartel based in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
"This is one of the more substantial drug-smuggling operations going on right now. This is a billion-dollar drug trade organization linked to the cartel," the official told Reuters.
The Pinal County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement made the bust Thursday in the Phoenix area and areas south, including Casa Grande and Maricopa, after a 17-month investigation by local, state and federal officials.
Reuters reports that authorities confiscated drugs, money, weapons, ammunition and bullet-proof vests. The drugs were reportedly being smuggled from Mexico into Arizona by car, plane, on foot and through tunnels.
Pinal County Sheriff's spokesman Elias Johnson said Friday that the bust is the biggest ever for his agency.
"It's huge," he said. "It'll be an eye-opener for sure when we roll everything out."
Drug experts told Reuters that the Mexican cartel involved is believed to be responsible for 65 percent of all drugs illegally smuggled into the U.S.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Arizona Attorney General's Office and the Pinal County Sheriff's Office plan a press conference to provide more details on Monday morning in Phoenix.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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