SAN DIEGO -- Indictments against 43 members of an alleged San Diego-based methamphetamine distribution ring tied to the infamous Sinaloa Cartel were unsealed in federal court Tuesday, leading to the arrests of 32 defendants and the seizure of drugs, guns and money.
The defendants face drug trafficking and money laundering charges involving meth and GHB distributed throughout the United States, as well as to the United Arab Emirates, according to court documents.
During a multi-agency operation conducted early Tuesday morning, 32 of the charged defendants were placed in federal or state custody, with 11 still at large. Investigators also seized 80 pounds of meth, four firearms and more than $100,000 in cash, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Federal prosecutors allege the drug ring moved "large quantities of methamphetamine from San Diego to various locations in the United States and internationally, through FedEx and the United States Postal Service."
Weekly drug shipments netted the ring's leaders "tens of thousands of dollars in narcotics proceeds," according to prosecutors, who said the suspects also created fake FedEx accounts billed to large corporations in order to conceal the drug shipments.
"Today, we have completely dismantled this San Diego-based international drug trafficking network with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel," U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said.
An unspecified number of the defendants are slated to be arraigned Wednesday morning.
"The Sinaloa Cartel relies on members of our communities to distribute their drugs," said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. "Because they manipulate our commercial distribution routes to make a buck, our streets are flooded with high purity and low cost methamphetamine. Without their distribution networks, such as the one dismantled today, cartels would not be able to operate drug businesses that rival Fortune 500 companies and dangerous drugs, like methamphetamine, would be scarce, expensive and of low purity."