The U.S. Customs Service confiscated nearly 1,300 pounds of cocaine less than two weeks after a similar seizure, reflecting Arizona's "major pipeline" role to Las Vegas and Southern California, an official said Friday.
About 15 agents seized 1,299 pounds estimated to be worth $150 million during a raid on a Tucson ranch late Thursday, said Thomas McDermott, agent in charge of the U.S. Customs Service in Arizona.He said the cocaine was believed part of the same operation as 1,286 pounds seized July 17 near Douglas. He said markings found on the cocaine packages also were the same type as found on packages in a major New York raid this week.
"It's very, very likely that the people in New York may be receiving it from the same sources in Colombia," McDermott said.
McDermott said the ranch, 16 weapons, $16,000 in cash and 71 pounds of marijuana also were seized, as well as five vehicles, including a tractor-trailer with a smuggling compartment about 2 by 10 feet, capable of holding "quite a bit more than 1,200 pounds."
A similar tractor-trailer rig was found at the first ranch raided July 17 and subsequently seized. That raid also led to seizure of another ranch last week near McNeal.
"As we start going in and seizing assets and we start arresting a number of people, taking vehicles and seizing that much cocaine, I can't help but assume that we are putting a hurt on the market," McDermott said.
McDermott said the Tucson ranch, registered as owned by Manuel Quintero-Contreras, 47, of Tucson, was used as "a stash house."
Quintero-Contreras and five other men were arrested, including two from Tucson, two from Mexico and one from Linwood, Calif.
All six were arraigned Friday before a federal magistrate, charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and ordered held without bond until a detention hearing next week.