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Heroin smuggling ring busted in Calif.

March 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Federal and local investigators have broken up an alleged heroin smuggling ring, calling it one of the largest crackdowns ever on an international drug ring. A multi-agency investigation began last summer. On Tuesday, 48 members of the ring were arrested. U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles Thomas O'Brien says the 20-year operation has been dismantled. The so-called Mendoza Organization was allegedly a family-run drug ring based in Mexico and East Los Angeles. O'Brien said the organization distributed about 12 to 15 kilograms of heroin every single week, yielding an estimated $2 million in revenues per month.

Twenty kilos of black tar heroin were seized, along with $100,000, during early morning raids on 38 locations in Southern California. Fourteen children have been taken into protective custody.

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca said the arrests and seizures are the result of a seven-month long investigation involving the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration And Customs Enforcement, and the L.A. County Sheriff's Gang and Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Those arrested include gang members and those responsible for supplying the heroin to more than 11 different street gangs.

Authorities say those heroin sales extended across San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. Those who were arrested are facing mandatory minimum sentences of ten years in federal prison if convicted.

U.S. Attorney O'Brien says the raids will shut off a major pipeline of heroin coming into the Los Angeles area from Mexican drug cartels.