22 Arrested in Connection With Helping Sinaloa Cartel Smuggle Drugs to L.A., Other Cities Across Country

Twenty-two people were arrested on federal drug trafficking charges involving the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, as raids were conducted throughout Southern California Wednesday,  officials said.

FBI officials on Aug. 8, 2018 released these photos of drugs and money allegedly smuggled during trafficking operations involving the Sinaloa Cartel.

FBI officials on Aug. 8, 2018 released these photos of drugs and money allegedly smuggled during trafficking operations involving the Sinaloa Cartel.

The raids were a culmination of a three-year long investigation into three trafficking organizations which helped transport “bulk quantities of drugs” from Mexico to the Los Angeles area and other cities throughout the U.S., said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s L.A. field office.

Twenty people were arrested Wednesday, while two were already in custody. The task force is still looking for eight fugitives, including top level Mexico-based traffickers, officials said. A total of 57 people were indicted in connection with the investigation.

The indictments, which were unsealed Wednesday, allege that the defendants received the drugs from the cartel in northern Mexico, smuggled them into Los Angeles through hidden compartments in vehicles and distributed them to Arizona, Kansas, Minnesota and New York, Delacourt explained.

In addition, those involved in the extensive operations, including pilots, couriers and money collectors, would return the proceeds to Mexico, officials said.

Several agencies were involved in a gang and drug trafficking raid in downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

Several agencies were involved in a gang and drug trafficking raid in downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

During the investigation, authorities seized 850 pounds of methamphetamine, 900 kg of cocaine, 100 pounds of heroine,  50 pounds of marijuana and $1.4 million. The combined street value of the seized drugs is estimated at $35 million per month, Delacourt said.

Those indicted face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and some could face life in prison, officials said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, IRS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Department of Homeland Security as well as several local law enforcement agencies were involved in the raids Wednesday.