U.S. authorities have dismantled a smuggling ring allegedly operated by the Sinaloa Cartel, which is suspected of trafficking some $2 billion of drugs from Mexico through the Arizona desert over the past five years.
Currently, 76 individuals are being held in connection to the ring, following “Operation Pipeline Express,” reports the New York Times. Intelligence collected during the 17-month investigation points to the Sinaloa Cartel as the source of the drugs, and suggests that the organization may have been operating the smuggling ring for more than five years.
During that time, law enforcement officials believe that the network was responsible for smuggling more than 3 million pounds of marijuana, along with 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin, worth approximately $2 billion in total.
Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, working with more than 20 law enforcement entities, collaborated for over a year on Operation Pipeline Express.
The huge smuggling ring allegedly employed crews of smugglers who carried relatively small quantities of drugs across the Sonoran desert on their backs. A network of stash houses in the Phoenix metropolitan area was used to store the heroin, cocaine and marijuana before it was distributed.
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