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AG Horne/DEA/ICE Take Down Multi-Million Dollar Marijuana and Cocaine Trafficking Organization From Mexican Cartel

PHOENIX (Friday, January 27, 2012)--Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne today announced the arrests of 14 of 15 suspected members of a large-scale marijuana and cocaine trafficking organization. This organization has smuggled over 19.1 kilograms of cocaine and 2,952 pounds of marijuana into the United States since December of 2010 with a Tucson, Arizona street value estimated to be between $2,631,600 and $2,126,400.

This criminal enterprise has been active for more than ten years in smuggling large amounts of marijuana and cocaine into the United States through the Nogales Port of Entry. The organization was utilizing tracker trailer dump trucks with scrap metal as cover, backpackers, and vehicles with hidden compartments to smuggle the marijuana and cocaine multiple times per week, and smuggle large amounts of US currency back into Mexico. Once in the United States, the marijuana and cocaine were being stored at various Nogales, Rio Rico, Tucson, and Phoenix area stash houses.

“This is yet another in a growing list of examples why the Arizona border with Mexico is not secure,” Horne said. “For this criminal operation to exist for the better part of a decade trafficking millions of dollars worth of poison into Arizona is outrageous and helps to define the critical nature of this problem. The level of violent criminal activity near the border and throughout much of Arizona at large is a direct result of the drug trade, and it simply cannot continue. In the meantime, the policy of the federal government remains to peddle the fiction that the border is as secure as it has ever been. It clearly is not, and I reiterate my call to the administration to do more to address this crisis.”

On December 10, 2010, law enforcement seized 2,873 pounds of marijuana in a belly-dump trailer pulled by a tractor. On May 14, 2011, law enforcement seized 77.7 pounds of marijuana hidden in the tires of a truck. On May 31, 2011, law enforcement seized $15,300 in U.S. currency of illegal drug proceeds hiding in a vehicle during a traffic stop. On June 11, 2011, law enforcement seized 10 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a car. On June 15, 2011, law enforcement seized of 9.1 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a false compartment in a car. On July 21, 2011, law enforcement seized 5 total packages of cocaine, weighing 5.644 oz (1/3 lbs). On September 29, 2011, law enforcement seized 6 pounds of marijuana believed to be a sample of a 300 pound load.

On January 26, 2012, simultaneous search and arrest warrants were executed on suspected members of the drug trafficking organization and their stash houses.

The 15 suspected members were indicted on charges ranging from Illegally Conducting an Enterprise, Conspiracy, Transportation of Marijuana for Sale; Transportation of Cocaine for Sale; Money Laundering; Use of a Wire Communication or Electronic Communication in a Drug Related Transaction or to Facilitate the Violation of any Felony Provision; and Weapons Misconduct. 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 with the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Strike Force are the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Marshal’s Service, Nogales Police Department, Tucson Police Department, Department of Public Safety, and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Nanette Morrow. 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 MARIJUANA IN AN AMOUNT OVER THE STATUTORY THRESHOLD, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3405;
  • 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;
  • USE OF A WIRE COMMUNICATION OR ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION IN A DRUG RELATED TRANSACTION, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3417;
  • POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA FOR SALE IN AN AMOUNT OVER THE STATUTORY THRESHOLD, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3405;
  • MISCONDUCT INVOLVING WEAPONS, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3102
  • POSSESSION OF MARIJUANA, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3405