US: Authorities Seize Nearly $100 Million in Cocaine, Arrest 24
A three-year investigation yielded 3,024 pounds of cocaine and 24 arrests in the Imperial Valley region of southeastern California, according to the LA Times.
The undercover operation, dubbed "Operation Cerberus," netted approximately US$96 million worth of cocaine, along with more than US$4.1 million in cash, 100 pounds of methamphetamine, and 820 pounds of marijuana, officials said on Wednesday.
Operation Cerberus, designed to target Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel, culminated with raids on locations in California, Arizona, and Oregon. According to officials, law enforcement also operated in North Carolina, Massachusetts, and parts of Mexico. Officials made use of extensive wiretapping, accessing 224 phones throughout the investigation according to the Imperial Valley Press.
The operation, which involved 66 arrest warrants, owes its success to the long-term investigation, the Imperial Valley Press says. "The long-range nature of the investigation allowed authorities to seize more and arrest more key figures, and therefore affect the cartel more," according to the publication.
The seizures and arrests are another blow to the Sinaloa cartel following the arrests of 21 suspects in Guatemala accused of laundering for the organization. However, the cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, remains the most powerful drug organization in Mexico.
Imperial County Narcotics Task Force commander Mike Loyd commented on the battle against drug cartels, saying, "You can’t declare war on drugs any more than you can declare a war on burglary or anything else."
"It’s always going to go on," Loyd added. "It’s just how you maintain it so it doesn’t get so far out of hand that you can’t get it back under control."
According to InSight Crime, the Sinaloa cartel is a contender for the largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization in the Western Hemisphere, and "the cartel's tentacles stretch from New York City to Buenos Aires and almost every major city in between."