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North American organized crime ring trafficked drugs from Mexico into US, Canada: Justice Department

A drug trafficking ring in Mexico smuggled drugs into the U.S. and Canada using a truck drivers, crime organizations, and distributors, authorities said.

Nineteen people have been federally charged in connection with an international organized crime syndicate that imported and exported a variety of drugs, including fentanyl, across the southern border into the United States and Canada using “handlers” who coordinated drug shipments, the Justice Department said Tuesday. 

Earlier this month, two federal grand juries in Los Angeles returned indictments on the 19 suspects for their alleged roles in the drug trafficking ring that included an Italian organized crime figure, Mexican-based drug suppliers, U.S. distributors, and Canadian truck drivers operating in the U.S., the FBI said. 

“This organized group worked as a conspiracy with impunity throughout North America,” Don Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said during a Tuesday news conference. “Today is an example of society pushing back and delivering a blow to groups like this who are unconcerned about the health and safety of individuals when they bring drugs into communities.” 


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The investigation, known as “Operation Dead Hand,” alleges that an unnamed organized crime group used Canadian “handlers” and “dispatchers” who traveled to the U.S. for short periods of time, and coordinated the pick-up and delivery of large shipments of cocaine and methamphetamine, which were loaded onto long-haul semi-trucks bound for Canada. 

Drivers working with dozens of trucking companies coordinated the transportation of the drugs and made numerous border crossings from the U.S. into Canada, authorities said. The crossings were made through the Detroit Windsor Tunnel in Michigan, the Buffalo Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York, and the Blue Water Bridge, also in Michigan.

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Authorities in California, Texas, and the Canadian cities of Montreal, Toronto and Calgary, executed search warrants Tuesday, resulting in 10 arrests. The indictments allege the drug trafficking activity involved 1,860 pounds of methamphetamine, 2,092 pounds of cocaine, 44 pounds of fentanyl, and nearly nine pounds of heroin.

During the investigation, authorities seized between $16 million to $28 million in drugs, and more than $900,000 in cash.

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“We are now faced with an overdose crisis that is leading to countless deaths every day,” said Royal Canadian Mountain Police Chief Superintendent Mathieu Bertrand.

On Jan. 3, a grand jury indicted nine people for their alleged roles in the drug ring: Guramrit Sidhu, 60, of Brampton, Canada; Ivan Gravel Gonzalez, 32, a resident of both the Dominican Republic and Montreal; Daniel Antonio Trejo Huerta, 43, of Riverside, California; Ignacio Lopez, 53, of Santa Ana, California; Daniel Joseph Alan Herrera, 27, of Miami; Orlando Velasco Jr., 29, of Stanton, California; Angel Larry Sandoval, 32, of Bell Gardens, California; Jorge Pina Nicols, 22, of Long Beach, California; and Bryan Ureta Valenzuela, 24, of Ontario, California.

Sidhu is alleged to have orchestrated the trafficking and exportation of drugs to Canada.

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On Jan. 4, a grand jury indicted 10 more people on multiple charges, including two drug trafficking conspiracies; conspiracy to import cocaine; drug exportation conspiracy; distribution/possession with intent to distribute controlled substances; possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking and being a felon in possession of ammunition.

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They were identified as Jesus Ruiz Sandoval Jr., 45, of Guadalajara, Mexico; John Joe Soto, 42, of Guadalajara, Mexico; Eduardo Carvajal, 50, of Guadalajara, Mexico; Italian and Canadian organized crime figure Roberto Scoppa, 55, of Montreal, Canada; Ayush Sharma, 25, of Brampton, Canada; Subham Kumar, 29, of Calgary, Canada; Carlos Barragan, 51, of Long Beach, California; Corell Carbajal Garcia, 38, of Hemet, California; Humberto Luis Bermejo, 26, of Odessa, Texas; and Esteban Sinhue Mercado, 24, of San Jacinto, California.

Sandoval remains a fugitive. He is believed to be a large-scale drug trafficker involved in smuggling drugs from Mexico into the U.S. 

Scoppa is an alleged Canadian drug trafficker with close ties to an Italian organized crime family in Montreal.

Each defendant faces up to life in prison. 

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