PHOENIX (Friday, September 30, 2011) -- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne today announced the arrests of 17 of 23 suspected members of a large scale cocaine trafficking organization. This organization has smuggled over 1,300 kilograms of cocaine into the United States since April of 2011 with a street value estimated to be between $25,622,500 and $33,825,000.
“This operation has dismantled a very sophisticated and large scale cocaine smuggling enterprise,” Horne said. “This organization is responsible for smuggling into the United States anywhere from nearly 26 million to nearly 34 million dollars worth of cocaine since April of 2011 and operated at a very sophisticated level with various techniques and levels of operation meant to evade law enforcement. Because of the diligent and efficient work of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the assisting agencies, this organization has now been dismantled.”
This criminal enterprise has been active for more than two years in smuggling large amounts of cocaine into the United States through the Nogales Port of Entry. The organization was utilizing three separate vehicles with hidden compartments to smuggle approximately 35 kilograms of cocaine per day, three times per week and used these same vehicles to smuggle large amounts of US currency back into Mexico. Once in the United States, the cocaine was being stored at various Phoenix area stash houses.
“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 DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. “We have seized their drugs, money, properties, and cars, but most importantly, we have ruptured their drug pipeline. DEA will not stop until these criminals are where they belong- behind bars.”
On June 15, 2011, law enforcement seized 13 kilograms of cocaine after departing from one of the suspected stash houses. On July 20, 2011, law enforcement seized another 13 kilograms of cocaine at the Nogales Port of Entry from inside the hidden compartments of one of the vehicles.
On September 21, 2011, 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 and $262,636.00 in US currency was seized.
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 or to Facilitate the Violation of any Felony Provision. The remaining defendants are not being identified at this time because grand jury secrecy requires their names be withheld until they have been served.
Agencies working in cooperation include the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Avondale Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshall’s Service, Marana Police Department, Oro Valley Police Department, Sahuarita Police Department, Tucson Police Department, Phoenix Police Department, Department of Public Safety, and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Christina Vejar. These charges are merely allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Indictment charges include:
- ILLEGALLY CONDUCTING AN ENTERPRISE; in violation of A.R.S. § 13-2312;
- CONSPIRACY; in violation of A.R.S. § 13-1003;
- TRANSPORT FOR SALE, IMPORT INTO THIS STATE OR OFFER TO TRANSPORT FOR SALE OR IMPORT INTO THIS STATE, SELL, TRANSFER OR OFFER TO SELL OR TRANSFER COCAINE IN AN AMOUNT OVER THE STATUTORY THRESHOLD, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3408;
- MONEY LAUNDERING, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-2317;
- PARTICIPATING IN OR ASSISTING A CRIMINAL SYNDICATE, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-2308;
- POSSESSION OF A COCAINE FOR SALE IN AN AMOUNT OVER THE STATUTORY THRESHOLD, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3408;
- USE OF A WIRE COMMUNICATION OR ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION IN A DRUG RELATED TRANSACTION, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3417;