TUCSON (Thursday, May 19, 2011) -- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne today announced the arrests of 21 of 46 suspected members of the Jesus Valencia Rodriguez drug trafficking organization, who work on behalf of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel, on charges of Illegally Conducting an Enterprise, Conspiracy, Transportation of Marijuana for Sale; Money Laundering; Participating in a Criminal Syndicate; Smuggling of Human Beings; and 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.
“This operation has effectively dismantled the Arizona-based transportation and distribution cells of the Jesus Valencia Rodriguez organization,” Horne said. “These suspects used remote areas of the Tohono O’Odham Nation in Arizona to funnel drugs and humans into the United States, and to re-direct racketeering proceeds and weapons back into Mexico. This criminal enterprise was a well-organized operation that constantly worked against law enforcement interdiction efforts with sophisticated counter-surveillance methods, including using human spotters embedded on U.S. soil, night vision equipment and radio communication. All of these activities are an outrageous affront to public safety and to the sovereignty not only of the United States, but the Tohono O’Odham Nation as well. Because of the dedicated work of numerous law enforcement professionals, these suspects are now behind bars.”
Since 2008, Jesus Valencia Rodriguez has been identified as the Mexico-based gate keeper working for the Caborca-based Paez-Soto cell of the Sinaloa Cartel. Valencia-Rodriguez is responsible for coordinating importation of multi-ton quantities of marijuana and illegal aliens from Mexico into the United States through the San Miguel Gate area and the smuggling of bulk drug proceeds and assault weapons back into Mexico. The San Miguel Gate area is a remote U.S./Mexico border location on the Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation which allows tribal members to pass freely between the United States and Mexico. Law enforcement intelligence has linked over 150 drug seizures since May 2008 totaling approximately 28,000 pounds of marijuana to the Valencia-Rodriguez DTO. In February, 2010, law enforcement officials also seized 41 assault weapons in the San Miguel vicinity which were en-route from Phoenix, Arizona to Valencia-Rodriguez in Mexico. The Valencia-Rodriguez organization uses compartments in vehicles, ramped vehicle loads, concealed tire loads, and backpackers to facilitate drug transportation operations in the remote desert area.
"DEA and our partners are committed to hitting traffickers who violate America's borders with coordinated, focused investigations and operations like the one we have announced today," said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. "In Arizona and all across our nation's Southwest Border, DEA is determined to find them, shut down their operations, and bring them to justice."
Ned Norris Jr., Chairman of the Tohono O'Odham Nation, said, "The dismantling of this dangerous drug network is an excellent example of the strong cooperative relationship that has been developed between the Nation and federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. We will not tolerate the transport of illegal narcotics into the United States through the Tohono O'Odham Nation. We are committed to protecting our tribal members and the security of the United States and the Nation will continue to work in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies to ensure this type of illegal activity is stopped."
Agencies working in cooperation include the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Border Patrol, Tohono O’Odham Nation Police Department, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, South Tucson Police Department, and Arizona IMPACT, which is coordinated through the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Kim Ortiz. 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;
- MONEY LAUNDERING, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-2317;
- SMUGGLING OF HUMAN BEINGS, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-2319;
- PARTICIPATING IN OR ASSISTING A CRIMINAL SYNDICATE, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-2308;
- POSSESSION OF A MARIJUANA FOR SALE IN AN AMOUNT OVER THE STATUTORY THRESHOLD, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3405;
- USE OF A WIRE COMMUNICATION OR ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION IN A DRUG RELATED TRANSACTION, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3417;
- USE OF A WIRE COMMUNICATION OR ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION TO FACILITATE THE VIOLATION OF ANY FELONY PROVISION, in violation of A.R.S. § 13-3417.