DEA takedown San Diego meth trafficking ring with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel after a year-long investigation

DEA takedown San Diego meth trafficking ring with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel after a year-long investigation

Forty-three members of one San Diego-based methamphetamine trafficking network which has ties to the infamous Sinaloa Cartel from Mexico were indicted on federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges following their involvement in a distribution ring that stretched as far as Abu Dhabi. The joint Narcotics Task Force (NTF) of the DEA executed more than a dozen search warrants on Tuesday, May 21, as part of a coordinated takedown that ended in the arrests of 32 defendants as of 1 p.m.

NBC 7 reported that the agents were also able to seize around 78lbs of meth, four firearms, and more than $100,000 in US currency. The remaining eleven defendants that the NTF was after fled and remain on the run.

A close-up image of methamphetamine crystals (Source: DEA)

According to court documents, the NTF investigators have tapped phones, tracked vehicles, and in some of the cases even went undercover in the year-long sting. The network has distributed both meth and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), which is also known as the date rape drug, in California. The drugs were also being distributed in 11 other states in the country as well as Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Cartel payments are reportedly made in bulk cash shipments and on consumer-level money transferring applications such as Venmo, Paypal, Cash App and Zelle. U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said in a statement: "Today we have completely dismantled this San Diego-based international drug trafficking network with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel."

He added: "I want to congratulate the outstanding federal, state, and local law enforcement cooperation that resulted in this highly successful investigation. Replicating this kind of aggressive law enforcement takedown is critical to breaking the backs of these criminal networks and continuing our efforts against the Sinaloa Cartel."


The NTF consists of DEA agents as well as law enforcement from agencies across the country. The San Diego Police Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, United States Border Patrol, Escondido Police Department, U.S. Marshalls, United States Postal Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the Abu Dhabi police all played significant roles in the year-long investigation that led to the arrests. 

Several of the defendants are scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Lopez at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 22.

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 dea bust san diego meth trafficking ring ties sinaloa cartel year long investigation