EL CENTRO – U.S. Customs and Border Protection held a press conference Wednesday to talk about a three year investigation that lead to key arrests. In November 2010, Special Agents with the Imperial County Narcotic Task Force (ICNTF) initiated a California State wiretap investigation into the importation and transportation activities of a Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) based in Mexicali, Baja California Norte (BCN), Mexico. Dubbed Operation Cerberus, this investigation targeted Sinaloa Cartel cocaine trafficking cells primarily operating along the southwest border in California and Arizona.
CBP says through intelligence gleaned from wire intercepted calls and developed by ICNTF Special Agents, along with law enforcement partners throughout the nation; various distribution networks were identified nationwide, specifically in the greater Los Angeles, Calif. area, North Carolina, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Throughout this investigation, approximately 224 phones have been intercepted, 17 search warrants have been executed, as well as numerous other enforcement operations, approximately 3,024 pounds of cocaine with an approximate retail value of $96,000,000, 100 pounds of methamphetamine, 820 pounds of marijuana, and over $ 4.1 million in U.S. currency have been seized.
CBP says this investigation is international in scope as the upper group of this organization, to include the source of supply as well as the top lieutenants, have been identified to be operating in Mexicali, BCN, Mexico. This DTO employs a large network of personnel that encompasses aspects of narcotics trafficking ranging from the importation of cocaine from Colombia, to the transportation of narcotics across the United States border, and distribution of narcotics to a vast customer base throughout the country.
Under the direction of a Mexico-based source of supply, multi-kilograms of cocaine were imported into the United States from Mexicali, BCN, Mexico and San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico. Once imported into the United States, the narcotics were then transported to stash locations in Imperial County pending further transportation to narcotics distributors in the greater Los Angeles, CA area for nationwide distribution. CBP says additionally, this DTO is sophisticated in nature as it utilized the latest technology to communicate, operate, track narcotics loads, and thwart detection from law enforcement.
“The arrests today show our commitment to tracking down and apprehending these high level drug traffickers in Imperial County and throughout the country,” said DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman. “DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to target these drug trafficking cells who attempt to utilize Imperial Valley as a transshipment point for their nationwide drug distribution networks.”
Operation Cerberus has been a collaborative effort among local, state, and federal law enforcement. ICNTF is comprised of Agents from the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office, United States Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, Imperial County Probation Department, California Highway Patrol, El Centro, Imperial, Brawley, and Calexico Police Departments. ICNTF was assisted during the course of the investigation by, L.A. IMPACT, Anaheim Police Department, Pomona Police Department, Montebello Police Department, and the San Diego HSI Marine Task Force. This investigation culminates on December 4, 2013 with 66 California State Arrest Warrants for subjects located throughout the states of California, Arizona, and Oregon.
Carla L. Provost Chief Patrol Agent of the El Centro Sector Border Patrol said, “Operation Cerberus is a great example of the collaborative effort of the Imperial Valley’s law enforcement community. This law enforcement partnership makes our communities safer and sends a clear message to criminals that we will employ our collective resources to eliminate the danger posed by these criminal organizations.”