LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A pyramid of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin standing 10 feet tall with an estimated street value of $18.5 million was confiscated during two recent drug trafficking investigations in the Inland Empire — representing the largest Drug Enforcement Agency meth bust in U.S. history.
“These two seizures are more than enough to provide a dose of meth for every man, woman and child in the United States and Mexico,” Timothy Shea, DEA acting administrator, said.
And some of it, concealed inside duffle bags, was apparently passed between cars in public — including at a Sam’s Club parking lot in Moreno Valley.
“Wow,” Lisa Serrano, a shopper, said. “I don’t know how they hide that.”
“I can’t bear to think about families coming here and shopping and knowing this is going on,” Tanya Rivas, another shopper, said.
Narcotics detectives with the Fontana Police Department spotted the exchange. The department said members of its DEA task force has been on the trail of the massive drug ring with ties to the Sinaloa drug cartel since June.
And, just this month, they started conducting surveillance on a drug courier who they believed was managing a stash house in an undisclosed neighborhood in Moreno Valley.
After the encounter at the Sam’s Club parking lot, the officers got search warrants for two suspected stash houses — one in Moreno Valley and the other in Perris. Between the two homes, detectives seized 25 duffle bags of drugs containing 2,200 pounds of meth, 460 kilograms of cocaine and six kilograms of heroin.
“Someone who’s responsible for this quantity of drugs is someone who is very, very trusted by the cartel,” Bill Bodner, the special agent in charge of the Los Angeles DEA, said.
In another seizure earlier this month in San Diego, customs and border patrol agents confiscated 3,000 pounds of meth, 29 kilograms of heroin and 29 kilograms of fentanyl-laced powder and pills.
“Meth is pouring into the U.S. through our southern border, and it’s destroying too many communities,” Shea said.
The DEA said the Los Angeles area is the preferred transportation hub for drug traffickers because it is north of the border and it is easier to blend into big cities.
“They can break the drug loads down and do distribution throughout the country,” Bodner said.
People who live in the Inland Empire said it was scary not knowing if the stash houses were located in their communities.
“The chemicals involved, you hear of places blowing up,” Rivas said. “That’s what’s scary.”
The DEA said it was not revealing the locations of the stash houses because detectives were still working on making arrests.