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30 Mexican cartel members charged in major drug probe, officials say

December 14, 2012 |  1:16 pm

Thirty members of a violent Mexican drug cartel active in bringing illegal narcotics to Southern California have been charged after a two-year undercover investigation, officials in San Diego announcedThirty members of a violent Mexican drug cartel active in bringing illegal narcotics to Southern California have been charged after a two-year undercover investigation, officials in San Diego announced Friday.

The 30 are members of the La Familia Michoacana cartel and an offshoot of the cartel known as the Knights Templar Cartel, officials said. The two rival groups, which engaged in a bloody turf battle, are responsible for smuggling large amounts of methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine into the United States.

Search warrants were served this week in San Diego, Riverside, Orange and Los Angeles counties, under the investigation dubbed Operation Knight Stalker. In San Diego County, 12 cases have been filed against 28 defendants, Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis said.

"This operation gives you a window into the continuing large-scale drug trafficking that continues to plague San Diego County across the U.S.-Mexico border," Dumanis said.

The structure of drug cartels is "constantly changing, but operations like this one cripple their ability to do business," Dumanis said.

The search warrants this week resulted in the seizure of more than 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 200 pounds of cocaine, 320 pounds of marijuana, 28 pounds of heroin and $200,000 in cash, officials said at a morning news conference.

Involved in serving the warrants were officers from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department task force, the U.S. Border Patrol and the San Diego County district attorney's office.

Fifteen of the 30 charged have been arrested, others are being sought, officials said.

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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Drugs hidden inside a spare tire. Credit: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

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