Raids dismantle $2 billion Arizona drug network: officials

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 31, 2011 4:49 PM
Raids dismantle $2 billion Arizona drug network: officials

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Law enforcement authorities have arrested over 70 people in raids that dismantled a narcotics trafficking network suspected of smuggling nearly $2 billion worth of drugs through Arizona's western desert, officials said on Monday.

The announcement in Phoenix caps a 17-month investigation culminating in a series of three "large-scale enforcement actions" tied to the probe, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Arizona Attorney General's Office and the Pinal County Sheriff's Department.

During last week's series of raids alone, authorities seized more than two tons of marijuana, 19 weapons and nearly $200,000 in cash.

Intelligence gathered as part of "Operation Pipeline Express" found the drug-smuggling ring was tied to Mexico's Sinaloan cartel and has been in existence for at least five years.

Authorities estimate the drug operation during that time smuggled more than 3.3 million pounds of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin into the United States.

Illicit proceeds generated from those drugs were estimated at nearly $2 billion, authorities said.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton)