Arizona local, state and federal authorities publicized results of a nearly 18-month multi-agency drug cartel investigation. The joint-task force “Operation Pipeline Express” successfully brought down a billion-dollar narcotic ring in the Arizona desert.
The agencies represented included Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Arizona Attorney General’s, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) told media outlets that the Sinaloa drug cartel suffered a huge disruption from Arizona law enforcement.
“Today we have dealt a significant blow to a Mexican criminal enterprise that has been responsible for poisoning our communities with the distribution of millions of dollars' worth of marijuana, cocaine and heroin,” said Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. “I find it completely unacceptable that Arizona neighborhoods are treated as a trading floor for narcotics. This case is the result of an outstanding partnership between federal and county law enforcement authorities and the Arizona Attorney General's office, which will handle the prosecution. These partnerships are essential to making sure these criminals experience the full force of the justice system.”
Authorities pointed out that the massive drug cartel ring built cells throughout western Arizona, and they used backpackers as well as vehicles to various “stash houses” which ultimately sent the illicit drugs to major U.S. cities.
This latest sweep was the third large-scale enforcement raids carried out under “Operation Pipeline Express.” So far, officials say 76 various cartel employees have been arrested. Last week’s warranted searches also netted two tons of marijuana, 19 firearms and $200,000.
“Through our joint efforts, we've sent a resounding message to the Mexican cartels that Arizona is off limits to their operatives,” said Matthew Allen, special agent in charge for HSI in Arizona. “As this case makes clear, law enforcement in Arizona is united in its resolve to protect our communities and our country from the scourge of large-scale narcotics trafficking. We stand ready to use every tool and resource at our disposal to attack and dismantle these organizations.”
While “Operation Pipeline Express” seized more than 3.3 million pounds of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine, 10,000 pounds of heroin and $2 billion in illicit proceeds, Arizona authorities garnered much-needed intelligence on the way the Sinaloa cartel operates.
“We in Arizona continue to stand and fight the Mexican drug cartels, who think they own the place,” said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. “This is America and we shall bring a crushing hand of enforcement against those who threaten our families and our national security. While this is a historic drug bust, sadly this represents only a fraction of what my deputies face every day.”
Arizona law enforcement agencies said it appeared that the Sinaloa drug cartel garnered a huge-profit margin in western Arizona due to the lack of drug cartel competition.
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