Authorities Arrest 17 in Multi-State Drug Case
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Authorities Tuesday arrested at least 17 people accused of being part of a 16-state cocaine and marijuana ring, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official said.
″We feel confident we have pretty much immobilized an entire organization,″ said Gerard Murphy, the top DEA agent in Arizona.
Another two of the 40 people indicted in the case were in Mexican jails, Murphy said. Twenty-one remained at large.
Law enforcement officers also seized $1 million in cash, cars and other assets, he said.
Since 1984, the southern Arizona-based ring has distributed 1,000 kilograms of cocaine, 305 tons of marijuana and 1 million methaqualone tablets around the country, Murphy said. He could not estimate the value of the drugs.
The ring was headed by Michael Hooks, who has been in a Mexico City prison on Mexican charges since June 1987, the agent alleged. Murphy declined to release any other information about Hooks.
Authorities arrested seven people in Tucson and one each in San Francisco, Mobile and Birmingham, Ala.; Nashville, Tenn., and Grand Rapids, Mich., Murphy said. Three other suspects were already in prisons in California and another was in Douglas, Ariz.
Mexican officials have been asked to transfer Hooks to American custody, he said.
Suspects were also being sought in Florida, Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas, Murphy said. The ring also operated in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
The DEA began its investigation after a plane crashed in 1985 near San Manuel, about 40 miles northeast of Tucson, Murphy said. The U.S. Customs Service, the Internal Revenue Service and the Arizona Department of Public Safety also took part in the probe.
A 1986 raid in Tucson turned up 16 kilograms of cocaine and detailed drug ledgers containing ″staggering″ numbers, he said.
The investigation earlier led to the indictment of Mexican marijuana trafficker Rafael Caro-Quintero on charges he operated a continuing criminal enterprise, Murphy said.
Caro-Quintero, serving a sentence in Mexico City for his role in the kidnapping and torture murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, has been identified as one of the Hooks’ organization’s main suppliers of marijuana, Murphy added.
The cocaine source has been narrowed to Medillin, Colombia, he said.
The ring flew and dropped off all but two drug loads at clandestine Arizona airstrips for storage and subsequent distribution, he said.
Murphy said the charges in the indictment returned June 28 by a federal grand jury in Tucson involved actions in 1985 and 1986.
The indictments were the fourth set the grand jury has issued concerning the Hooks organization since June 1986, he said. In all, the grand jury has named 96 defendants and panels in Minnesota and Alabama have named another 14.
Twenty-five of the 70 indicted previously remain fugitives, and all but one of the remaining 45 have been convicted.