Note: interesting array of weapons picked for show & tell.
From KTAR photos of drugs & weapons
Matthew Allen, left, special agent in charge of Homeland Security
Investigations in Arizona, is joined by Richard Barlow, Acting Chief
Patrol Agent for the U.S. Border Patrol, as they arrive with others
for a news conference as a variety of multi-jurisdictional law
enforcement agencies announce a bust on a major drug smuggling ring
in Arizona, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, in Phoenix.
Operation "Pipeline Express" has netted 76 arrested,
has seized 61,573 pounds of marijuana,
213 pounds of cocaine, 158 of heroin,
$758,908 in cash,
and four ballistic vests,
all linked, according to law enforcement, to a faction of the
Sinaloa Cartel based in Sonoyta, Sonora, Mexico.
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
BTW, the Sonoyta area has had an increase in killings lately.
The previous bust mostly involved members of a non hispanic minority
The feds still don't want to discuss if any of the weapons are from F&F.
Massive smuggling ring dismantled in Arizona
Associated Press | Posted: Monday, October 31, 2011 2:45 pm | Comments
Arizona authorities have disrupted a Mexican drug cartel's
distribution network, arresting dozens of smugglers in dismantling a
ring responsible for carrying more than $33 million worth of drugs
through the state's western desert every month, officials said Monday.
The ring is believed be tied to the Sinaloa cartel _ Mexico's most
powerful _ and responsible for smuggling more than 3.3 million pounds
of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin
into the U.S. through Arizona over the past five years, according to
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Their efforts in that time generated an estimated $2 billion,
according to ICE.
ICE's Homeland Security Investigations and the Pinal County Sheriff's
Office arrested 22 suspected smugglers tied to the ring on Thursday,
the latest of three busts they say have brought it down following a
17-month investigation dubbed "Operation Pipeline Express."
In the three busts combined, the agencies have arrested 76 suspected
smugglers and seized more than 61,000 pounds of pot, about 160 pounds
of heroin, about 210 pounds of cocaine, nearly $760,000 in cash, and
108 weapons, including assault rifles and shotguns. The other busts
came in mid-September and mid-October.
Although the agencies released some information about Thursday's bust
last week, they held back most of their information for a Monday news
conference in which they displayed dozens of guns and hundreds of
pounds of pot seized for members of the media.
The smuggling ring operated by using backpackers and vehicles to move
drugs from the border to a network of so-called stash houses in the
Phoenix area. The drugs were then sold to distributors from states
across the country.
Authorities say the ring virtually monopolized smuggling routes along
an 80-mile section of the Arizona-Mexico border from Yuma to just
east of the small Tohono O'odham Nation town of Sells.
Some of the officials at the news conference in Phoenix lauded the
bust as a significant blow to the Sinaloa cartel, while others
acknowledged that it affects only a portion of the cartel's massive
operation, which still has cells operating in the state.
"It's a body blow but it doesn't knock them out by any sense of the
imagination," Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeau said. "This literally
is just a fraction of what's going on."
It's only a matter of time before either the Sinaloa cartel or
another operation reclaims the area affected by the bust, said
Matthew Allen, ICE's special agent in charge for Arizona.
"This is not a closing chapter in this book," he said. "We have every
expectation that command and control in Mexico is working to re-
establish their presence, and it's our job to go after them."
Authorities began investigating the smuggling ring in June 2010, when
a Pinal County sheriff's deputy stopped two smugglers hauling 1,500
pounds of pot in Stanfield, about 50 miles south of Phoenix. At least
one of the smugglers gave investigators detailed information about
Allen said that those arrested range from low-level drug haulers and
scouts to those who were in command.
"This is how you attack international organized crime and
transnational criminal organizations, by focusing on the people, the
leadership and the illicit pathways that they exploit," he said. "Our
goal is to take them out by their roots."
The case is a reminder of how important it is for the federal
government to gain operational control over the border, Arizona
Attorney General Tom Horne said.
"I find it completely unacceptable that Arizona neighborhoods are
treated as a trading floor for narcotics," Horne said. "Children are
not safe when their homes are located near the other homes that are
used as distribution centers for drugs. Our highways are not safe
when criminal organizations battle each other, sometimes violently
and at risk to innocent bystanders, for control of loads of drugs
being transported in vehicles."
Authorities need to send a message to cartel leaders through
continued busts, Babeau said.
"We have to stand up to bring the fight to the cartels to say, `This
is America. You're not bringing your violence, you're not bringing
your drugs and your trash to our country. We're going to stop you,'"
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/state-and-regional/massive-