- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that they raided a suspected drug trafficking garage in San Diego and netted more than 1,500 pounds of cocaine, 52 pounds of fentanyl, $3.5 million in cash and 20,000 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition — the largest haul ever in Southern California.

Agents said the operation was tied to the Sinaloa Cartel.

They found a fleet of vehicles with hidden compartments they believe were used to smuggle the drugs into the U.S., and carry the cash and weapons back south to Mexico.

The money was wrapped in plastic and coated with axle grease.

“This seizure is significant not just because of its size, but because it demonstrates the direct correlation between narcotics, illicit money, and guns that drives violence in our communities and destroys lives,” Cardell T. Morant, special agent in charge at ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego.

Three people were charged with intent to distribute cocaine.

One is listed as the owner of one of the trucking companies, while the other two are employees, HSI said in a criminal complaint.

They have been tied to Jorge Alberto Valenzuela-Valenzuela and his brother, Gabriel Valenzuela-Valenzuela, both of whom HSI says are high in the Sinaloa Cartel.

They own several trucking companies in Mexico which they use to “transport ton-quantity cocaine loads” from Sinaloa into the U.S. through legal border crossings, HSI said.

Agents said they discovered Jorge Valenzuela had entered the U.S. last month and watched him at a San Diego airfield as he overaw loading a private jet with suitcases of drugs. Agents then caught up with him near Boston and arrested him on Oct. 29.

He was indicted on federal cocaine distribution charges earlier this month, and the federal government has begun an effort to forfeit his assets.

The bust is the latest in a decade-long investigation into the Sinaloa Cartel’s U.S. activities, dating back to an operation to wrap up a drug distribution cell along the border in California. At first agents thought it was a small-scale operation, but soon realized it was tied to the Sinaloa network.

In the years since, more than 125 people have been charged, nearly $28 million has been found and massive amounts of drugs have been seized.

“This investigation has also offered one of the most comprehensive views to date of the inner workings of one of the world’s most prolific, violent and powerful drug cartels,” wrote HSI Agent Roy Voss.

The circular nature of the smuggling operation — with drugs coming north, and weapons and money flowing south to Mexico — is standard procedure.

But the amount of weaponry was eye-popping.

In addition to the .50 caliber ammunition, agents found 427 body armor vests, 1,000 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition and a stolen AK-47-style semiautomatic rifle.

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