State and federal drug agents from the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the California Department of Justice, California Department of Corrections, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security investigators as well as sheriff deputies from several counties bore down on the Stanislaus and Merced County areas Wednesday in what is being described as a year-long major operation to bring down marijuana and methamphetamine drug traffickers in the Central Valley.
The agents were spotted at several locations throughout Stanislaus County including the rural area of Patterson Wednesday morning. Investigators conducted searches at more than two dozen locations throughout the Central Valley, including two ranches in the rural area southeast of Patterson that authorities suspect were tied to the drug trafficking scheme. During the searches, authorities encountered five indoor marijuana grow operations, including one with more than 2,100 plants. In addition, the investigators seized a shotgun, two handguns, nearly 60 pounds of processed marijuana and more than $20,000 in cash.
As of Wednesday afternoon, investigators were still processing several of the search locations, where they say additional seizures and arrests are possible.
Of the 11 individuals detained by mid-day Wednesday on suspicion of criminal violations, six are facing federal charges. Five remaining criminal suspects will likely be prosecuted for state offenses. In addition to the criminal arrests, investigators detained another 20 individuals who face administrative immigration violations.
Investigators believe the drug trafficking organization was cultivating marijuana and distributing methamphetamine. Evidence uncovered during the investigation indicates the ring used sophisticated methods to conceal and smuggle the contraband, including commercial trucks with hollowed out drive shafts and vehicles equipped with hidden compartments.
City Government and Public Safety Reporter Nick Rappley can be reached at 568-9975 or firstname.lastname@example.org.