ROSEMEAD, Calif. (KABC) -- Six people are in custody after federal agents raided a home in Rosemead believed to be linked to a drug-smuggling ring run by Chinese nationals.
The operation was allegedly hiding methamphetamine in objects such as ceramic plates and mugs and hollowed-out books and shipping them to Australia and New Zealand via UPS and other means, authorities say. Experts say the drugs would fetch much higher prices abroad than in Southern California.
Large quantities of meth and currency were seized at the property, where 23 people were said to be living.
Some of those at the home were minors and the county's Department of Children and Family Services is investigating their circumstances.
It appears some of the property's other residents were tenants, apparently unconnected to the drug operation. One woman told Eyewitness News her boyfriend was renting a room at the property and was questioned then released by federal agents.
Agents with the FBI and DEA as well as local police investigated the operation and on Wednesday morning a search warrant was executed in the 2700 block of New Avenue. Of the six arrests made, two were at the Rosemead home, which is expected to be seized by authorities.
Video from AIR7 HD showed more than a dozen people sitting in chairs outside a two-story building after being detained.
The defendants are expected to appear before a judge in Santa Ana on Thursday.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says search warrants were executed at two additional locations in Rosemead and Monterey Park. Authorities seized 40 pounds of meth, more than $100,000 in cash and more than 1,000 retailer gift cards.
If convicted of all charges in the 27-count indictment, the suspects would face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in federal prison, ranging up to a maximum of life in prison. Including Wednesday's actions, during the course of the overall investigation, they seized almost 200 kilograms of meth, which would sell for more than $20 million in Australia and New Zealand.
Retired FBI agent Bill Bodner, who was not involved with this investigation, said Chinese organized crime groups are partnering with their counterparts in other countries, such as the Sinaloa cartel, to provide new markets for illegal drugs.
"Imagine you can buy a kilogram of methamphetamine here in Southern California for $1,500," Bodner told Eyewitness News. "And you can sell it in New Zealand or Australia for $100,000. That's the incredible amount of profit that's available."