The Drug Enforcement Administration announced today that 19 suspected members of a cocaine trafficking organization have been arrested. Among those arrested was a Cochise County Sheriff's Office detention officer.
According to a DEA news release, DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman said the arrests are the result of a 12-month investigation of drug trafficking activity in Sierra Vista and Bisbee.
Two suspects remain at large.
Tucson News Now reported yesterday that Cochise County Sheriff's Office Detention Officer Mario Serrano had been arrested in the on-going investigation.
According to the release, the alleged drug ring imported cocaine from Mexico to Tucson. From there, it was distributed to street dealers and users throughout Bisbee and Sierra Vista, the DEA said.
The charges against the suspects include conspiracy to import, transport, sell and possess cocaine; money laundering; sale and transportation of a narcotic drug for sale; and use of a wire or electronic communication in a drug offense.
The arrest and search warrants were executed on the suspects and their alleged stash houses in Tucson, Sierra Vista, Bisbee and Douglas, according to the release.
"It's an unfortunate reality that people who hold these types of positions can become involved in criminal activity," said DEA Special Agent Ramona Sanchez.
She was speaking about Cochise County detention officer Mario Serrano. He's accused of buying cocaine for his own personal use. But he is one of about 21 suspects in a cocaine ring investigation that started with a tip in Tucson. Nineteen are in custody so far.
"This was a 12-month-long investigation that we conducted but we wanted to make sure that we had enough evidence to charge these people," Sanchez said.
Sanchez said that the tip led investigators to a supply chain of cocaine from Tucson to Sierra Vista, where it was distributed in that city and to the towns of Bisbee and Douglas. She said that while the cocaine entered the country from Mexico to Tucson, exactly how or where is under investigation.
"We were tenaciously looking at the bigger picture right now," Sanchez said. "So, we anticipate to identify the distributors, and the transporters, and where it's coming into Arizona."
The DEA said that the suspects have arraignments scheduled in Pima County Superior Court Tuesday.
The investigation was led by DEA and included the Sierra Vista Police Department, Cochise County Sheriff's Office, Bisbee Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
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