Sixteen people have been indicted and hundreds of pounds in drugs were seized in an 8-month undercover investigation that included surveillance operations in San Diego targeting one of the most violent drug cartels on record.
An undercover narcotics agent infiltrated the Sinaloa Cartel and found the group using cars with hidden compartments to smuggle drugs into Southern California, often through the Calexico ports of entry.
The drug-smuggling probe netted cocaine, marijuana and nearly $2 million in cash.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced the arrests Wednesday in Imperial County. Twelve of the suspects named are from Southern California and Mexicali, Mexico.
The DEA "has dealt a body blow to this syndicate," Brown said.
"Make no mistake about it the Sinaloa Cartel is extremely violent," David King with the Drug Enforcement Agency said. "They are responsible for beheadings in Mexico. They are extremely violent for control of turf."
Investigators seized 420 pounds of cocaine and 136 pounds of marijuana, with a combined street value of more than $19 million, according to Brown's office.
Also seized were $1.7 million in U.S. currency, nine firearms, seven handguns, two assault rifles and nine vehicles.
"Where you sit today in Imperial County is the number one cocaine and methamphetamine shipment point in the United States," King told reporters in El Centro Wednesday. "The point of entry into Calexico east and west is the number one land entry n the United States of America for trafficking cocaine and methamphetamine and the Sinaloa cartel is responsible for it."
Thousands of pounds of cocaine and marijuana ended up in cities including Atlanta, Chicago and New York, as well as Canada, according to Brown.