LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Over a dozen people working at two Southland truck yards have been arrested
in connection with three Mexican drug smuggling operations, prosecutors said Thursday.
KNX 1070′s Claudia Peschiutta reports authorities are still hunting for more suspects in what they describe as a cross-border drug ring.
The 18 defendants arrested this morning are among 57 people charged in two indictments and one criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court. Authorities continue to search for the remaining defendants, according to U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr.
Since the investigation began in early 2011, authorities seized more than 2,400 pounds of methamphetamine, 30 kilograms of cocaine, 16 kilograms of white heroin, 20 kilograms of brown heroin, and more than $1.2 million in suspected narcotics proceeds, and recovered 18 firearms.
The investigation initially looked into a drug trafficking organization run by the Mexico-based Miguel Angel Molinero-Castro, which used truck yards in South Gate and Wilmington to receive large quantities of controlled substances hidden in PVC pipes that were further concealed in tractor trailer axles.
The raid on Thursday resulted in the seizure of an additional 7 pounds of methamphetamine, 3 firearms, four vehicles, approximately $50,000 in cash and an operational methamphetamine laboratory, officials said.
According to the criminal complaint that charged Molinero and 37 others related his alleged drug trafficking ring, Molinero arranged for narcotics to be transported via truck from Mexico to Nogales, Arizona, where co-conspirators would take control of the shipments.
The narcotics were then transported either to other distributors in Arizona or to the Los Angeles area.
The criminal complaint charges 38 defendants with two counts: conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
A related indictment charges eight defendants involved in another drug distribution ring that also allegedly smuggled narcotics from Mexico into the United States inside PVC pipes hidden inside truck axles.