Sophisticated marijuana smuggling organization with ties to Sinaloa Cartel
Located within the Sonoran Desert region of south central Arizona and covering 74 miles along the United States–Mexico border, the Tohono Oʼodham Nation governs the second largest Native American land holding in the U.S. The reservation's remote, rugged landscape, interspersed with plains and mountains, has been used by a sophisticated transnational drug trafficking organization with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel.
A multiple agency investigation led by the Native American Targeted Investigation of Violent Enterprises (NATIVE) Task Force belonging to ICE Homeland Security Investigations has led to the conviction of 18 defendants in a case called United States v. Felix-Ramirez.
Of the 18 convicted defendants listed in the Department of Justice press release, only one is a U.S. national. 14 are Mexicans, two are from Honduras and one is from El Salvador.
In order to move large quantities of marijuana across the southern border into the United States, the organization relied on a sophisticated network of mountaintop scouts who used high-powered binoculars, cellular telephones, and radios to guide marijuana backpackers around law enforcement agents patrolling the area. The drug trafficking organization delivered supplies to the scouts so they could survive in strategic mountaintop locations for extended time periods.
Agents seized approximately 4,358 pounds of marijuana tied to cartel scouts over the course of the investigation.