HomeNewsBriefUS Busts ‘Sinaloa Cartel’ Drug Trafficking Ring in Arizona

US Busts 'Sinaloa Cartel' Drug Trafficking Ring in Arizona


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.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


The rise of the Zetas as not just a Mexican menace but as a…

MEXICO / 17 SEP 2012

Only 30 percent of those detained on drug trafficking charges in Mexico are actually convicted, raising questions about the ability…

EL COSS / 4 SEP 2012

The Mexican Navy announced the arrest of the brother of one of the original founders of the Gulf Cartel, Osiel…

About InSight Crime


Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.


Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.


InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.


Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.


Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.