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Feds bust international drug trafficking ring


August 17, 1999
Web posted at: 5:36 p.m. EDT (2136 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal authorities Tuesday announced the nationwide bust of a "major" drug trafficking network, arresting 70 people and seizing millions of dollars in cash, drugs and luxury cars.

The federal action involved arrests in numerous states and drug raids in more than 10 cities late Monday and early Tuesday, officials with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration told reporters.

The FBI said 14 kilos (30.8 pounds) of cocaine, two Ferraris and seven weapons were seized in the raids, part of "Operation Southwest Express."

During a related yearlong investigation, authorities seized more than 2,700 kilos (5,940 pounds) of cocaine, 1,800 kilos (3,960 pounds) of marijuana, and $1.1 million in U.S. currency, according to Tom Pickard, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division.

"This organization embraced the American corporate ideal and would sell any drug that would turn a profit," he said.

The FBI said the group used cars, tractor trailers and railway systems to transport the cocaine and marijuana to major U.S. cities.

The trafficking organization smuggled drugs from Mexico into San Diego and El Paso, Texas, and shipped them to seven regional distribution centers: Houston, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Cleveland and Nashville, Tennessee.

Officials say seizures took place in Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

The arrests included that of San Diego-based Omar Rocha Sota, the suspected ring leader of the drug organization, Pickard said.

Pickard said the drug shipments came in through Mexico from Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America and were sold to criminal organizations of various ethnic groups.

Authorities have arrest warrants for 28 additional suspects on charges of narcotics, money laundering or racketeering. More arrests were taking place in San Diego, Houston, Boston, Philadelphia and Albany, New York, sources told CNN.

McCaffrey: Anti-drug campaign's success greater than expected
August 2, 1999
Colombia welcomes U.S. help with drugs
July 27, 1999

Office of National Drug Control Policy
Federal Bureau of Investigation - FBI Home Page
DEA - Home Page
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