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Sinaloa drug cartel informer leads to arrests, officials say

Drug unit says it has seized almost $3 million in cocaine

Defendants range in age from early 20s to late 40s, officials say

New York CNN  — 

Seventeen people were arrested in Philadelphia in a multimillion dollar drug bust, with the help of a member of one of the world’s largest drug cartels, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.

The city’s Dangerous Drug Offenders Unit seized almost $3 million worth of cocaine in the bust, as well as 16 vehicles and five guns, after a three-month investigation. Authorities said they were tipped off in February by a confidential informant who said garages and auto body shops in the city were “equipping vehicles with special compartments to traffic drugs.” The vehicles would pick up shipments of cocaine in New York and return them to Philadelphia, authorities said.

The District Attorney’s office said the arrests Wednesday are a direct result of a series of arrests in September 2011 by the Dangerous Drug Offenders Unit that involved members of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the largest drug cartels in the world, operating out of Sinaloa and Juarez, Mexico. Authorities said one of the defendants in those arrests became an informant for the unit and helped lead investigators to a garage, and subsequently other garages and auto body shops, involved in the drug ring.

It is unclear if the informant who tipped the police off in February and the Sinaloa Cartel informant are the same person.

“Back in September we announced that we had effectively cut off the head of a dangerous and deadly monster before it ever had a chance of poisoning our streets,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “Now thanks to those arrests, not only did we stop the Sinaloa Cartel from becoming a viable operation in Philadelphia, we have also shut down another drug ring that was trying to destroy our city.”

The defendants range in age from early 20s to late 40s and include a married couple from Puerto Rico. Charges include criminal conspiracy, possession with the intent to deliver and unlawful use of a communication facility.