Note: Still real short on details, but something for Grassley's and
Issa's oversight committees?
Drug bust tracks millions of dollars of pot and cocaine
by Jim Cross/KTAR and Associated Press (October 31st, 2011 @ 11:43am)
PHOENIX — A Valley drug ring smuggled more than $33 million a month
of pot and cocaine into the United States, according to authorities.
"Operation Pipeline Express," was conducted last week by the U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Pinal County Sheriff's Office
and other agencies.
Numerous guns were shown among the items seized in the raids, but
Matt Allen with ICE would not comment if the guns were part of the
controversial "Operation Fast and Furious" conducted by the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms." The gun-running operation allegedly
lost track of many weapons which were put in the hands of Mexican
"We do not talk about the trace results that come from those
firearms," Allen said. "That will obviously be the focus of follow-up
investigation to find out how those weapons ended up in the hands of
Over the past five years, the ring smuggled more than 3 million
pounds of pot and 20,000 pounds of cocaine into the United States,
The organization is tied to Mexico's Sinaloan cartel, according to
Despite dealing the cartel a major blow, it will try to get back in
business as soon as possible, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said at
a news conference Monday.
"Because this is about money, it's about influence. The enemy here is
the cartels, it is not Mexico," he said.
He said authorities are dealing with cartels who think they own the
Arizona-Mexico border, "who think they can come in here and have
lookout posts on high points of terrain, who have this mature
operation and, when we take them down, we have to ask that question,
`how long before they reconstitute?'"
The operation is one of the biggest narcotics trafficking rings ever
broken up in Arizona, with more than 75 people arrested since last
year, authorities said.
"Does it really have a dramatic impact?" Babeu asked. "We're saying,
'yes, it does,' but this literally is just a fraction of what is
The 17-month investigation by local, state and federal officials led
to a series of raids in the Phoenix area and Pinal County on Thursday.
Thursday's raids involved the same ring as two other previous busts,
including one where 17 suspected drug smugglers were arrested and 935
pounds of marijuana was seized.
Note: no mention of firearms seized, a bit unusual for this media
'Massive' smuggling ring dismantled in Arizona
by Amanda Lee Myers - Oct. 31, 2011 11:15 AM
Arizona authorities said Monday that they've dismantled a "massive"
drug trafficking ring responsible for smuggling more than $33 million
worth of drugs through the state's western desert every month.
The agencies say the ring is believed to be tied to the Sinaloa
cartel, Mexico's most powerful, and that it has been in operation for
at least the last five years.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers estimate that the
ring is responsible for smuggling more than 3.3 million pounds of
marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin into
the country during that time. They estimate the profits at somewhere
around $2 billion.
ICE and the Pinal County Sheriff's Office arrested 22 suspected
smugglers tied to the ring on Thursday, the latest of three busts
that they say have brought it down following a 17-month investigation.