A three-year undercover investigation into the drug-smuggling operations of a Sinaloa cartel through Imperial Valley has led to the seizure of 3,024 pounds of cocaine worth $96 million, authorities said Wednesday.
The operation started in Imperial Valley but has spread to Los Angeles and other locations in California, as well as North Carolina and Massachusetts, officials said.
Local and federal law enforcement agents will "continue to target these drug trafficking cells who attempt to utilize Imperial Valley as a transshipment point for their nationwide drug-distribution networks," said William Sherman, special agent in charge of the San Diego office of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The cartel, with some of its top lieutenants based in Mexicali just across the Mexican border, smuggles in cocaine from Colombia and other locations through the use of "the latest technology to communicate, operate, track narcotics loads and thwart detection from law enforcement," Sherman said.
Imperial County Dist. Atty. Gilbert Otero said the investigation utilized the most extensive use of wiretaps in the valley's history. Some 224 phones were intercepted, he said.
On Wednesday, 66 search warrants were served in California, Arizona and Oregon.
Along with the cocaine, 100 pounds of methamphetamine, 820 pounds of marijuana and more than $4.1 million in cash have been seized, officials said at a Imperial Valley news conference.