What border crisis? Largest domestic meth bust in DEA history made – worth $18.5 million

LOS ANGELES, CA A pyramid of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin standing 10 feet tall, with an estimated street value of $18.5 million. That’s the haul from two recent drug-trafficking investigations in Southern California’s Inland Empire, and it represents the largest domestic meth bust in Drug Enforcement Agency history.

DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea made the announcement Oct. 14 as he stood in front of the mountain of illicit drugs, noting that agents had seized 893 pounds of cocaine, 2,224 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and 13 pounds of heroin. He said:

“These two seizures are more than enough to provide a dose of meth for every man, woman, and child in the United States and Mexico.”

Some of the drugs were passed between cars in broad daylight, concealed in duffle bags, in public places such as the Sam’s Club parking lot in Moreno Valley. Lisa Serrano, a shopper told CBSLA:

“Wow. I don’t know how they hide that.”

Another shopper, Tanya Rivas, told CBSLA:

“I can’t bear to think about families coming here and shopping and knowing this is going on.”

Narcotics detectives with the Fontana Police Department spotted the exchange in the Sam’s Club parking lot. The department said its DEA task force had been on the trail of the massive drug ring since June and noted that the drug ring has ties to the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel.

In June, the DEA’s Los Angeles Field Division, Southwest Border Group 2, began investigating a Sinaloa Cartel-linked drug trafficking organization that was involved in the transportation and delivery of large quantities of crystal methamphetamine and cocaine.

As a result of the investigation, agents located a Southern California-based narcotics courier/stash house manager, along with multiple locations and vehicles associated with the courier and the drug trafficking organization.

Earlier this month, investigators conducted surveillance on a drug courier who they believed managed a stash house in an undisclosed neighborhood in Moreno Valley.

On Oct. 2, DEA agents and Fontana PD investigators established surveillance on the courier’s residence, where they observed the target courier and an associate. The agents and detectives observed the couriers load two duffle bags into a vehicle and leave the location, meeting up with a third associate in the parking lot of the Moreno Valley Sam’s Club.  

The first two drug couriers were observed unloading and delivering the two duffle bags to the third associate and all three were then detained in the parking lot. They were questioned and later released.

After the encounter in the Sam’s Club parking lot, the officers obtained search warrants for two suspected stash houses, one in Moreno Valley and the other in Perris. Between the two homes, detectives seized 25 duffle bags stuffed with 2,224 pounds of meth, 406 kilograms of cocaine, and six kilograms of heroin.

Bill Bodner, special agent in charge of the Los Angeles DEA, said:

“Someone who’s responsible for this quantity of drugs is someone who is very, very trusted by the cartel.”

He added:

“Los Angeles is the major transshipment hub for Mexican cartels trafficking illicit drugs across our southwest border. Successful seizures like these save lives and reduce the exploitation and victimization of our local communities.”

The Sinaloa Cartel is considered to be the world’s largest and most-powerful drug organization. It was headed by  hyper-violent drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán until he was sentenced in 2019 to life in prison. His son Ovidio Guzmán Lopez is said to now be partially in control of the organization.

The cartel dominates northwest Mexico and is reported to have a presence in cities ranging from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to New York City.

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In another seizure earlier this month in San Diego, customs and border patrol agents confiscated 3,000 pounds of meth, 29 kilograms of heroin, and 29 kilograms of fentanyl-laced powder and pills. Shea stated that:

“Meth is pouring into the U.S. through our southern border, and it’s destroying too many communities.”

The DEA said the Los Angeles area is the preferred transportation hub for drug traffickers because it is north of the border and it is easier to blend into big cities. Bodner said:

“They can break the drug loads down and do distribution throughout the country.”

People who live in the Inland Empire are a little frightened, not knowing if the stash houses were located in their communities. Rivas said:

“The chemicals involved, you hear of places blowing up. That’s what’s scary.”

The Inland Empire is a metropolitan area inland of and adjacent to Los Angeles. It includes the counties of San Bernardino and Riverside and sometimes is considered to include Coachella Valley. In the 2019 census, an estimated 4.6 million people lived in the region.

The DEA said it was not revealing the locations of the stash houses because detectives were still making arrests.

Shea said:

“The largest DEA domestic seizure of methamphetamine in history is a significant blow to the cartels, but more importantly it is a gigantic victory for communities throughout Southern California and the United States who have had to deal with the torrent of methamphetamine coming into their neighborhoods.

“We continue to work with our state and local partners to attack drug trafficking at all levels and this seizure sends a clear message that we mean business.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said:

“The significant seizures announced today thwarted drug traffickers’ plans to profit from these dangerous drugs that cause incredible harm to our communities. The Justice Department is committed to making our neighborhoods safer by aggressively disrupting drug cartel operations in the United States.”

Southern California’s ABC7 posted the story on its Facebook page, drawing 1.1k comments. Some people praised the DEA:

“Thank you, DEA for preventing this from hitting our streets. Great job! Stay safe.”

“Great work by the DEA and combined law enforcement agencies that made that happen.”

Some were glad that the drugs were off the streets:

“so glad….get that f’n method off the streets…Devils candy….one of the worst drugs as far as I’m concerned….”

“Congrats to the hardworking team that kept these drugs from hitting our streets! We owe you a HUGE debt of gratitude!”

One was upset that the drugs even made it that far north:

“The question is how come it reached there [sic] from Mexico border. There is so much [sic] technology that can easily trace it at the border.”

And some made light of the raid:

“It’s all due to the pandemic… I understand they [sic] were ready to ship them thru Amazon due to social distancing.. dealer guys can meet people like they used to..”

“Was anybody seriously shocked that they found meth in Moreno Valley! 😂”

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