Federal prosecutors said Thursday that 30 people have been indicted in connection with a conspiracy to send hundreds of pounds of drugs from Mexico through Southern California and into Canada.
At least 13 of the suspects have already been arrested on narcotics-related charges in the scheme, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said involved international drug trafficking organizations moving bulk quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.
Law enforcement agencies seized around 944 pounds of cocaine, nearly 20 pounds of heroin, almost 103 pounds of methamphetamine and a little over 106 pounds of MDMA, as well as around $811,000 in Canadian currency, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
The scheme also included members of Canadian, Mexican, Serbian, Chinese and Sudanese organized crime groups, prosecutors said.
Three of the thirteen people arrested Thursday were taken into custody in the Los Angeles area, while others were arrested in Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. Three of the 13 are already in state custody and will be transferred to federal prisons.
Court documents say some of the suspects arranged buys of bulk quantities of cocaine and meth in the U.S. for importation to Canada, and then would arrange for MDMA, commonly called ecstasy, to be sent from Canada to the U.S. for sale.
They allegedly used “modified cellular devices with military-grade end-to-end encryption” to talk to each other about the drug buys and transport, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
The drug trafficking ring was taken down in part by co-conspirators who later agreed to cooperate with law enforcement, according to court documents.
Part of the alleged scheme involved plans in 2017 to send weekly shipments of MDMA to the Los Angeles area, and in return cocaine would be sent to Canada through drug couriers, the documents say.
In one case, drugs were left in a storage locker in Redlands, California, and the person who picked them up allegedly had about 100 pounds of methamphetamine in a vehicle, court documents say.
Some of those charged also allegedly worried that federal authorities were on their trail and planned a test run to cross the U.S.-Canadian border without any drugs to see if they were stopped.
Others were concerned about getting a police report on a drug seizure to prove to Mexican suppliers that the cache had been taken by law enforcement. The overall scheme also allegedly involved plans to send cocaine from the U.S. to Australia.
Prosecutors said that if convicted as charged, the accused could face up to life in prison with a mandatory minimum of 10 years.
The wide-ranging investigation involved many federal and local law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Canada, including the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of Justice Canada, officials said.