Man arrested in Costa Mesa accused of drug trafficking

A Canadian man was arrested at a Costa Mesa storage facility, where he was allegedly found waiting for 80 pounds of cocaine, federal authorities said Friday.

John Philip Co, 41, of Richmond, British Columbia, was arrested late Wednesday as part a federal investigation into a Southern California operation that allegedly laundered millions of dollars for a Canada-based narcotics trafficking organization, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

June Jie Zhang, 31, of Toronto was also arrested at a casino in Commerce as a part of the investigation.

The investigation began in February as a multiagency undercover probe in which agents from Homeland Security Investigations posed as brokers for Mexican cocaine traffickers who sought out Co and Zhang.

The men allegedly sold marijuana and Ectasy in the U.S., then used those profits to buy cocaine for reselling in Canada at twice the American value, federal authorities said.

"It's unusual to find a scheme where suspects seek to cover their tracks by using criminal proceeds to buy more contraband," special agent Claude Arnold, who is in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, said in the arrest announcement.

On Wednesday, undercover authorities in Santa Ana and El Monte received two payments totaling $750,000 in exchange for cocaine, and Co was arrested waiting for 80 pounds of cocaine the agents sold them, federal authorities said.

It's believed that Co and Zhang allegedly laundered more than $15 million in drug profits in the last year alone, according to ICE.

The two are charged in a federal criminal complaint for conspiracy to distribute more than 37 kilograms of cocaine, federal authorities said. Both men face life in prison if convicted.

— Lauren Williams

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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