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85 people charged in East County drug trafficking networks

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Posted at 4:44 PM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 19:53:26-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Eighty-five people linked to the Sinaloa Cartel were charged Thursday for their roles in a massive East County drug trafficking network.

Eight indictments were unsealed in a San Diego federal court charging the alleged members with federal drug trafficking, money laundering, and firearms offenses, according to the Office of the United States Attorney Southern District of California.

Investigators executed more than a dozen search warrants Thursday in a coordinated takedown of locations around the East County. Investigators discovered at least four pounds of methamphetamine and two firearms.

The networks reportedly supplied a variety of controlled substances — like meth, heroin, and fentanyl — to distributors around Southern California, and then laundered tens of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds back to Sinaloa Cartel traffickers in Mexico.

As of 1 p.m., 47 of the 85 charged were in federal or state custody. Some of the charges carry potential 20-year sentences and millions in fines.

“Today we sent a message to drug traffickers in our community. If you sell drugs in San Diego, we will find you and prosecute you to the full extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer.

Authorities used surveillance, wire taps on phones, and undercover agents to obtain evidence and track encrypted communication by members through services like WhatsApp and Signal.

Through wiretaps, investigators seized about 175 pounds of methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl; about $50,000 in cash, multiple firearms; and a 2020 Cadillac Escalade valued at $115,000.

Defendants will start to be arraigned Friday.