DEA Seizes $59M Cash, Drugs, Weapons, Vehicles

LOS ANGELES -- A 21-month investigation targeting Mexican drug cartels in Southern California has resulted in hundreds of arrests -- 52 of them Wednesday in California, Minnesota and Maryland -- and the seizure of nearly 23 tons of drugs nationwide.

"The criminal organizations targeted in Operation Xcellerator were smuggling thousands of pounds of dangerous drugs into the U.S., many of which wound up in the neighborhoods throughout Southern California," said Timothy J. Landrum, of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The DEA will continue the collaborative effort between federal, international, state and local law enforcement agencies that has led to more than 150 arrests in the Southern California area, sweeping these violent drug organizations off our streets and ultimately making our communities safer," Landrum said.

Among those indicted were Victor Cazarez-Salazar, believed to be a "command and control" leader within the Sinaloa Cartel, but he remains a fugitive.

The nearly two-year investigation has resulted in 755 arrests; the seizure of more than $59 million in cash; and the seizure of more than 26,000 pounds of cocaine, about 16,000 pounds of marijuana, nearly 20 pounds of heroin, and 1.3 million doses of MDMA, also known as ecstasy.

Also seized were 169 weapons, 149 vehicles, three aircraft and three boats, authorities said.

The investigation primarily targeted the Sinaloa Cartel, which operates across much of North America. 

The Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for bringing multi-ton quantities of drugs from Mexico into the United States through distribution cells in the U.S. and Canada.

Individuals were indicted for a variety of crimes, including "engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise by violating various felony provisions of the Controlled Substances Act"; conspiracy to import controlled substances; money laundering; and possession of an unregistered firearm.

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