WASHINGTON — Federal agents have arrested 268 people and seized cocaine, marijuana and cash in an effort to break up a smuggling operation that brought narcotics from Colombia to at least a dozen U.S. cities.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, working with several other law enforcement agencies and authorities in Mexico and Colombia, arrested 83 people Wednesday. Previously, 185 were arrested as part of a crackdown called "Operation Marquis."
Joseph Keefe, the DEA’s chief of operations, described the bust as one of the largest of its kind.
Arrests were conducted simultaneously during the early morning in 16 cities, the DEA said. It said that provisional arrest warrants naming 14 suspects in Mexico were being submitted to Mexican authorities.
Keefe said the multiagency operation has crippled a drug trafficking organization run by the brother of drug lord Amado Carrillo-Fuentes, who died in 1997 after a botched plastic surgery.
Vincente Carrillo-Fuentes, Jose Albino Quintero-Meraz and suspected drug kingpin Alcides Ramon Magana, arrested in the Gulf Coast state of Tabasco earlier this month, are alleged to be the central players in the smuggling operation, Keefe said.
During the year-and-a-half investigation, agents seized 9,000 kilograms of cocaine, 28,000 pounds of marijuana and $12.5 million in cash.
DEA officials said drugs from Colombia were trucked or flown to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, on the U.S. border. In some cases, officials said, the smugglers used special radar-evading planes.
From Nuevo Laredo, they said, the drugs were smuggled into the United States, either in covert compartments on trucks or cars passing through a commercial border crossing in Laredo, Texas, or by individuals coming across the border into Texas.
The drugs were then stored in local warehouses before being distributed to cities across the United States, DEA officials said.
It said the organization shipped the drugs in tractor-trailers, with the narcotics concealed by cover loads of produce, and said cars with concealed compartments also were used.
Arrests were made or planned in Laredo, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Austin, Texas; Little Rock, Ark.; New York; Newark, N.J.; Charlotte, N.C.; Cleveland; St. Louis; San Diego; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Nashville and Memphis, Tenn.
Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.