SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Sixty people were charged Tuesday for their roles in a San Diego-based international meth distribution network tied to the Sinaloa Cartel, according to an unsealed indictment.
During the last month, dozens of the defendants have been arrested and multiple locations throughout San Diego County have been searched, according to a release from the Office of the U.S. Attorney Southern District of California. As of Tuesday, 44 of the 60 defendants are either in federal or state custody.
In addition to the arrests, more than 220 pounds of methamphetamine and other drugs; 90 firearms; and more than $250,000 in cash have been seized, the Attorney's Office added. Law enforcement agencies are also seeking the forfeiture of homes, high-end vehicles, and bulk cash belonging to the defendants.
"Today we have dealt a serious blow to this San Diego-based international drug trafficking network with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel," said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. "The intersection of drug dealing and gun possession inevitably leads to violence in our communities. By dismantling this network, the Department of Justice reaffirms its unwavering commitment to reducing violent crime and building a San Diego where all our citizens are safe."
According to the release, over the last several years, the network had, "obtained thousands of kilograms of methamphetamine from the Sinaloa Cartel to smuggle across the international border concealed in hidden compartments in passenger cars and motorcycles."
The release added that:
"The defendants then used these cars and motorcycles, along with trains, commercial airlines, the U.S. Mail, and commercial delivery services like FedEx and UPS to distribute that methamphetamine to dozens of sub-distributors located throughout San Diego County, the United States, and the world, including Hawaii, Arizona, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Kentucky, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
In return, tens of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds were returned to the network’s leaders via shipments of bulk cash, structured cash deposits into bank accounts, and money transfer systems like MoneyGram, Western Union, PayPal, Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App. And to protect their illegal operations, the defendants allegedly possessed dozens of firearms and used encrypted communication providers to communicate with each other. This drug trafficking and money laundering continued unabated throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic."
Law enforcement said agencies were able to make the arrests after a variety of investigative techniques, like surveillance, undercover agents, wiretaps, and obtaining phone and financial records.