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Friday, 26 December 2008

Billion Dollar Mexican Drug Gang Busted In Arizona

After a year-long investigation dubbed "Operation Tumbleweed" law enforcement in Arizona has busted the Garibaldi-Lopez Drug Trafficking Organization linked to the Sinaloa drug cartel resulting in the arrests of 39 individuals and the seizure of "more than 25,000 pounds of marijuana, one kilogram of cocaine, 11 pounds of methamphetamine and more than $750,000 in cash, in addition to dozens of cars, firearms and stolen vehicles." The group smuggled 400,000 pounds of marijuana each year from Mexico into the United States, and over the last five years generated a profit of one billion dollars:The smugglers are accused of taking stolen vehicles from the United States, loading them with drugs in Mexico and sneaking them across the border north to Phoenix. The operation included putting spotters in desert areas to look out for authorities and erecting radio towers so smugglers could communicate with each other. "Whenever they spotted any kind of law enforcement movement, the loads would shut down," said Lt. Vince Piano of the Phoenix Police Department, one of several agencies investigating the case. "They had equipment in trucks that would camouflage - or 'brush up,' as they term it - and sit for a day or whatever it took for that law enforcement movement or operation to end and then they would continue to move the loads." The smuggling vehicles were each loaded with about 2,000 pounds of marijuana in Sonoyta, Mexico. Trucks outfitted with retractable vehicle ramps were used to move the smuggling vehicles over the border fence within two to five minutes. Once north of the border, the smugglers moved through the Tohono O'Odham Nation's reservation, using night-vision equipment to travel when it was dark and sometimes driving through dry stream beds or dirt roads in remote areas. Heading north to Phoenix, they would stop south of the metro area in rural Pinal County, where the stolen vehicles would be abandoned in the desert and the drugs would be put into less conspicuous vehicles that weren't stolen and brought to stash houses in Phoenix. Among the 39 arrested is the alleged leader Marco Antonio Sonoqui, and police are searching for another twenty individuals.


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