Charges were filed Tuesday in federal court against three Mexican nationals who allegedly trafficked drugs for the Sinaloa Cartel, resulting in what agents believe to be the largest single-day seizure of cash, drugs and ammunition in San Diego history.
Jesus Burgos Arias, 32, of Chula Vista, and Tijuana residents Juan Alatorre Venegas, 44, and Jose Yee Perez, 54, were arrested Friday in a joint operation between local and federal officials targeting associates of the cartel. $3.5 million in cash, 1,507 pounds of cocaine, 52.8 pounds of fentanyl, about 20,000 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition and hundreds of body armor vests were also seized from a truck yard in Otay Mesa.
The men, currently housed in San Diego Central Jail, were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. They will be transferred to federal custody and are scheduled to appear in court this week, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
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If found guilty, the men could face 10 years to life in prison, plus a $10 million fine.
The investigation, led by the Southern District of California, started in 2011 and over its five years has resulted in charges against more than 125 people, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. It started as a probe into what was believed to be a small-scale drug distribution cell in National City and Chula Vista and has since given law enforcement "the most comprehensive views to date of the inner workings of one of the world’s most prolific, violent and powerful drug cartels," according to the attorney's office.
U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer praised the collective effort of law enforcement agencies to "aggressively attack the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug smuggling, money laundering, and arms smuggling operations – depriving them of their illegal merchandise, their profits, and a safe haven."
Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant said the seizure is significant not only because of its size, but because it ties a direct link between drug trafficking and illegal drugs and weapons.