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3 Big Drug Rings Broken, U.S. Says

Times Staff Writer

A 10-month investigation led to more than 160 arrests in four U.S. cities and two foreign countries this week, and broke up three major transportation rings that smuggled methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the country, the Drug Enforcement Administration said Friday.

The foreign rings, which had ties to 27 U.S. distribution groups, brought in enough methamphetamine to provide the drug to more than 22,700 people each month, the government said.

The arrests announced here Friday were part of the same operation that led to the arrests earlier this week of five Mexican nationals in Ontario and San Bernardino, in what was called a major crackdown on methamphetamine trafficking. Arrests in Southern California were continuing.

As of Friday, 10 of the 164 arrests in Operation Three-Hour Tour came in Southern California. Suspects were also taken into custody in New York; New Haven, Conn.; Des Moines; the Dominican Republic and Colombia.

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“The streets from Bogota to Los Angeles are no longer a free-trade zone for the criminals arrested today,” Karen P. Tandy, the head of the DEA, said in a statement.

The three Mexican and Colombian drug groups and their U.S. distribution counterparts also brought 4,000 pounds of cocaine and 20 to 30 pounds of heroin into the United States monthly, said the DEA, which lead the investigation. That would have supplied nearly 1.81 million cocaine users and 13,620 heroin users each month.

Authorities initially said they had confiscated 3,163 pounds of cocaine; 55 pounds of methamphetamine; 15 pounds of heroin; 9.5 ounces of crack cocaine; 10,000 doses of ecstasy; 216 pounds of marijuana; $5.5 million in cash; 58 vehicles; and 52 firearms. But another 86 pounds of methamphetamines were seized Friday afternoon in San Diego, the DEA said.

Officials provided few other details of the investigation or the arrests, most of which occurred Thursday and Friday. “The takedown was an elaborate operation that was coordinated nationally and internationally,” said Garrison Courtney, a spokesman for the DEA in Washington.

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More arrests are expected in L.A. County over the weekend, said Jose Martinez, a DEA spokesman in Los Angeles.

U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales on Thursday announced programs to fight methamphetamine abuse, including spending $1 million on anti-drug advertisements and $16.2 million over three years for the treatment of addicts.

“The scourge of methamphetamine demands unconventional thinking and innovative solutions,” he said.


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