DEA: Major Drug Smuggling Operation Along U.S.-Mexico Border Dismantled

By Peter O'Dowd
May 20, 2011

Federal agents said they dismantled a smuggling ring that brought drugs and people illegally through tribal land in Arizona since 2008.

The Drug Enforcement Agency announced Thursday that 27 people were in custody and accused of trafficking drugs and humans through the Tohono O'Odham Indian Reservation. The remote tribal land straddles the US-Mexico border.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said authorities are still looking for the ringleader, who is at large in Mexico.

"We’re going to ask the Mexican government to arrest him and extradite him to Arizona," Horne said.

Agents said the operation is linked to the Mexican Sinaloa cartel. It allegedly operated for years, bringing tons of marijuana into the United States through a rural area with no border fencing. The smugglers used spotters on hilltops to send a warning if the Border Patrol was operating in the area, Horne said.