Authorities recently arrested nearly two dozen people in a series of drug raids across Southern California. The arrests were linked to a widespread smuggling ring linked to Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa cartel.
Drug Smuggling Arrest Linked to Sinaloa Cartel
Twenty-two people were arrested in connection to a drug ring responsible for allegedly funneling hundreds of pounds of narcotics across the border. The cartel allegedly used small aircraft and vehicles with concealed compartments in order to get drugs to cities across the Mexico-U.S. border and distributed throughout the United States.
According to U.S. federal law enforcement officials, the group had an Amazon- like network of warehouses and “stash houses” around the country. The investigation, called “Operation Narconetas” targeted three separate organizations and resulted in a seizure of 850 pounds of methamphetamine, 93 pounds of heroin, 50 pounds of marijuana, nearly a ton of cocaine and approximately $1.42 million in drug money.
In addition to seizing the large quantities of drugs and money, the investigation also targeted top-level Mexico-based traffickers who were in charge of directing the operations.
The pre-dawn raids were conducted by the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies. The agencies targeted houses in the Inland Empire communities of Perris, Hemet and Rialto. According to officials, the Inland Empire and Los Angeles have easy routes to the border, which make them key distribution points when it comes to drug trafficking.
While 22 people were arrested, a total of 57 defendants were named in three indictments stemming from the case and the three-year investigation. The indictments list a variety of drug trafficking and conspiracy charges that could result in federal prison sentences of a decade to life without parole.
Many of those named in the indictment remain fugitives in Mexico, officials said.
Smuggling Charges and Border Arrests
Many people do not realize how limited their rights are when entering the United States. Some smuggling, trafficking and illegal importation charges arise from involvement in real criminal enterprises. Others impact people who did not know they were breaking the law or had no idea of the extent of the searches U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents perform. Regardless of the circumstances, it is crucial to seek experienced legal counsel to mitigate the impact of criminal charges related to smuggling or border arrests.
Our Los Angeles defense attorneys have substantial experience representing people coping with border arrests and smuggling charges. The Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman intervenes on behalf of citizens and visitors arrested at LAX and other airports in California, people arrested at or near the Port of Los Angeles or the Port of Long Beach, and people charged with:
- Crossing the Mexican border into California with drugs, weapons, large amounts of cash, jewelry or gemstones, or other goods that may have been legally obtained but were not properly declared
- Attempting to smuggle illegal or forbidden items into prison, including drugs or weapons
- Illegal importation of plant or animal products, often without intent to commit a crime
- Crimes allegedly committed on a cruise ship (such as sexual assault, drug crimes or theft) leading to arrest and detention on board or when coming into harbor
- Possession of child pornography, or on suspicion of another serious sex offense such as organizing a trip to engage in sex with a minor
- Human trafficking, including charges of aiding and abetting this crime
Strong Experience Defending People Facing Mexican Border Arrests or Airport Detainment
It would be incredibly naive to believe that “profiling” of men traveling alone, individuals of certain races and nationalities, and people coming from certain foreign destinations does not occur at our points of entry. Whatever the circumstances of your arrest, however, failing to promptly contact an attorney focused on defending your rights could be a life-altering mistake.
The less you say to federal agents or police in connection with a drug arrest at the Los Angeles airport or any smuggling crime, the better. Many such officials are experts in getting what they need for a conviction while reassuring you that they will ultimately let you go if you talk.
You always have the right to remain silent, but at the same time, if you don’t answer questions to establish your citizenship, officials may decide to deny you entry into the country. They can also detain you for additional searches and/or questioning. Agents are at liberty to search any person, the inside of any vehicle, and all passenger belongings and are not required to have a warrant to do so. That means if they have any suspicion of wrongdoing they do not need a warrant or your consent to question you or search the person, vehicle, or any belongings.
At the same time, CBP’s policy requires that searches be “conducted in a manner that is safe, secure, humane, dignified and professional.” Agents at ports of entry:
- Cannot use excessive force.
- Cannot conduct more intrusive searches such as strip searches or repeated detentions unless they have “reasonable suspicion” of an immigration violation or crime.
- Should not damage personal property during an inspection.
If You Are Detained
If you are detained, you have the right to remain silent and the right to speak to an attorney. You will want to do so immediately. If you are a citizen of another country, you also have the right to speak with your consulate.
Additionally, you may be asked where you were born, how you entered the U.S. or how long you’ve been here. You do not need to answer those questions as your responses may be used to detain and deport you. Do not sign anything without first talking to a lawyer. If you are not a U.S. citizen, signing certain documents may mean you are giving up your opportunity to try to stay in the country.
Contact Daniel R. Perlman
At your first opportunity, contact us at 213-514-8324, at 213-514-8324 or by e-mail and get proven border arrest and smuggling defense lawyer Daniel R. Perlman involved in your case.