30 Indicted in Scheme to Traffic Drugs From Mexico to SoCal, Bringing Hundreds of Pounds of Narcotics

Thirty people have been indicted as part of a drug trafficking scheme that brought hundreds of pounds of drugs from Mexico into Southern California and then into Canada, federal authorities said.

Hundreds of pounds of narcotics seized as part of a federal investigation into drug trafficking are seen in this photo released by the U.S. Department of Justice on Sept. 5, 2019.

Hundreds of pounds of narcotics seized as part of a federal investigation into drug trafficking are seen in this photo released by the U.S. Department of Justice on Sept. 5, 2019.

The indictments unsealed Thursday charge the defendants with narcotics-related crimes such as conspiracies to distribute, import, and export controlled substances. Three of the defendants were arrested in the Los Angeles area and 10 others were taken into custody Thursday in parts of Seattle, Vancouver and Canada, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in California.

Just over 944 pounds of cocaine, about 100 pounds of methamphetamine, 100 pounds of MDMA and nearly 20 pounds of heroin were seized in connection with the drug trafficking scheme, federal prosecutors said. About $811,000 in Canadian currency was also seized.

Members of multiple international drug trafficking organizations are named defendants in the case, according to prosecutors, and many come from Serbian, Chinese, Canadian, Mexican and Sudanese organized crime groups.

Prosecutors allege they worked together to bring bulk quantities of heroin, cocaine and meth from Mexico into Southern California, where the drugs would then be sold or exchanged for bulk amounts of ecstasy in cities such as Compton, Ventura, Costa Mesa and Redlands.

Stacks of cash seized as part of federal probe into drug trafficking from Mexico to SoCal is seen in this photo released by the U.S. Department of Justice on Sept. 5, 2019.

Stacks of cash seized as part of federal probe into drug trafficking from Mexico to SoCal is seen in this photo released by the U.S. Department of Justice on Sept. 5, 2019.

Other times, prosecutors said, the drugs were then brought into Canada. Some defendants are accused of transporting them from Southern California to Australia.

The defendants allegedly used cell phones equipped with military-grade encryption to hide their communications. Federal prosecutors said those phone are primarily manufactured by Canadian companies that remove most of their functionality — leaving only an encrypted email system.

Those arrested Thursday were expected to appear in U.S. District Court in downtown L.A.

They could face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison if convicted of all charges.

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