Drugs valued at $13M seized in Arizona investigation targeting Sinaloa cartel

Feb 24, 2023, 9:22 AM | Updated: 9:59 am
(Twitter Photo/@ColtonKrolak) (Twitter Photo/@AZAGMayes) (Twitter Photo/@AZAGMayes)

PHOENIX — Federal, state and local authorities on Thursday unveiled the results of a three-year investigation targeting the Sinaloa drug cartel in Arizona.

Members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Arizona Attorney General’s Office and Tempe Police Department discussed the operation during a press conference at which piles of seized drugs and guns were on display.

“I want to be crystal clear: The drugs in this room and the drugs that are flooding Arizona every single day are sourced primarily by one evil entity, the Sinaloa drug cartel,” Cheri Oz, DEA special agent in charge, said during the briefing at a Tempe police station.

“We are laser-focused on the Sinaloa drug cartel, and we will defeat them.”

More than 150 traffickers have been charged and narcotics valued at $13 million seized during the investigation, officials said.

“Had these seizures not been made, these substances would be poisoning members of our community, including our youth and vulnerable population,” interim Tempe Police Chief Josie Montenegro said.

“In addition, the dangers and crimes associated with illegal drugs would be plaguing our community.”

According to the DEA, around 4.5 million fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl, 66 kilograms of fentanyl powder, 138 kilograms of cocaine, 3,100 pounds of methamphetamine, 35 kilograms of heroin, 49 firearms and over $2 million dollars have been seized during the operation.

“I hope when you look around this room, you’re terrified,” Oz said. “Because in 27 years of law enforcement, I’ve never seen a drug as dangerous and deadly as fentanyl.”

Officials say cartels are mass producing pills that look like prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and Adderall but are laced with fentanyl, a highly addictive man-made opioid that can be deadly in small doses.

“There are few families in our state and across our country that haven’t been touched in some way by the scourge of the opioid epidemic and the fentanyl crisis, with more experiencing the horrors of these drugs daily,” Attorney General Kris Mayes said.

More than 105,000 people died in the U.S. of drug overdoses in the past year, with fentanyl involved in two-thirds of the deaths, Mayes said.

The DEA seized 50 million fentanyl pills in the U.S. last year, half of them in Arizona.

“While busts like this don’t fully solve the problem that we face, getting as many of these drugs off the streets as possible will undoubtedly save lives,” Mayes said.

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Drugs valued at $13M seized in Arizona investigation targeting Sinaloa cartel