A recent series of drug trafficking operations in the Inland Empire resulted in 51 arrests and the seizure of $4 million in cash, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Friday.
Seventeen undercover operations were conducted in the region in the last two months by the California Department of Justice’s Inland Crackdown Allied Task Force, according to a news release from Becerra’s office.
Fifty-one people were arrested on suspicion of money laundering associated with drug trafficking, the release stated. Officials did not release the name of any of the individuals in custody.
About $4 million in U.S. currency that was meant to buy drugs in the state was also seized during the operations.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, California has seen a “significant increase” in drug traffickers traveling to the state to obtain narcotics, authorities said. In the Inland Empire, there’s also been an uptick in activity linked to out-of-state drug trafficking operations over the past couple of months.
The increase in seizures is partially attributed to the ongoing public health emergency, which has made it more difficult for drug traffickers to transfer or launder money because of temporary, forced business closures, according to officials.
“Not surprisingly, not even a COVID-19 pandemic triggers the ‘pause’ button for those willing to traffic in drugs,” Becerra said in the release. “These arrests should send a strong message that even during the pandemic, we will continue to hold criminals accountable.”
The state Justice Department’s task force seeks to combat drug trafficking and narcotics-related money laundering, as well as associated violence, in the Inland Empire. It is comprised of local, state and federal law enforcement personnel.