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60 arrested in bust of Iraqi, Mexican organized crime rings

August 18, 2011 |  2:33 pm

Sixty people were arrested on suspicion of drug and weapons charges after an undercover investigation centered on an Iraqi social club in suburban El Cajon, law enforcement officials announced Thursday.

The investigation uncovered connections between the club and elements of the Sinaloa drug syndicate, Mexican mafia and an Iraqi organized crime organization in Detroit, according to officials of the El Cajon Police Department and the San Diego branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Illicit drugs and pharmaceuticals, $630,000 in cash and 3,500 pounds of marijuana were seized during the investigation as well as three luxury automobiles, 34 firearms and four improvised explosive devices, officials said.

In April, an undercover agent was shown a grenade and told that other grenades were available for sale from a Mexican military source, El Cajon Police Chief Pat Sprecco said.

The social club, located on East Main Street, has been the center of other investigations over the last decade for drug sales, gambling, car theft and gun smuggling, officials said.

Dubbed Operation Shadowbox, the current investigation is continuing, Sprecco said.

Communities in eastern San Diego County and in the Detroit area have been major immigration locations for Iraqis in recent decades.


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Photo: Weapons seized during an investigation into an Iraqi social club in El Cajon. Source: Drug Enforcement Administration.