Five days of smuggling interdiction in Pinal County has led to the arrest of 14 smugglers and the seizure of 1382 pounds of marijuana by the Pinal County Sheriff’s office. The interdictions were the efforts of PCSO deputies working on regular patrol or assisting US Border Patrol agents working in western Pinal County.
Sheriff Paul Babeu said of his deputies efforts this past week, “It would take a task force of monumental proportions to interdict all the drugs that are being smuggled through Pinal County, but our deputies work tirelessly to stop as much of the drug trafficking as possible with our limited resources. The fact that our deputies can arrest 14 smugglers, seize over 1300 pounds of marijuana, assault weapons and sophisticated radios from the Mexican drug cartels, in Pinal County, in just five days, should be a wake- up call to everyone that the border is not secure.”
Sheriff Babeu continued, “More troubling is we are only catching maybe ten percent and it stands to reason, if this many Mexican Cartel smugglers are getting through, the enemies of America can more easily slip in without detection of arrest. Securing our southern border should be President Obama’s top priority given the terrorist threat we face from ISIS.”
Here is a recap of the incidents that led to the arrests and seizures from Nov. 29 through Dec. 3.
On Sunday, Nov. 29, a PCSO deputy on patrol near Papago Road and Pecan Woods, spotted in a silver Ford SUV and attempted to stop the vehicle for a traffic violation. The driver fled at speeds up to 70 mph, until he crashed into a clump of trees north of W. Jean Dr. and N. Glyde Dr. The driver fled from the vehicle on foot and was apprehended about 1/2 mile north by an Ak-Chin police officer assisting the PCSO deputy. The Ford SUV was found to contain 20 bales of marijuana, total weight of 280 pounds. The driver was identified as Guadalupe Acosta Gutierrez, a 22-year-old Mexican national. He was booked into Pinal County Jail. He is being held, pending charges of drug smuggling and felony flight.
PCSO deputies responded to assist US Border Patrol agents who were chasing smugglers near Warren and Miller Roads in Pinal County on Monday, Nov. 30, just after 1 p.m. The black SUV fled from Border Patrol and the smugglers abandoned their car in the desert near that intersection. PCSO assisted in the arrest of one smuggler and seizure of 500 pounds of marijuana found in the abandoned SUV. The suspect, identified as German Nunez-Mojarro, a 24-year-old Mexican national, is now in the Pinal County Jail awaiting drug smuggling charges.
On Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 9:05 p.m., a PCSO deputy observed a white Honda sedan travelling east on Highway 84, north of Interstate 8. The deputy observed several traffic violations and attempted to stop the Honda. The vehicle fled from deputies for a brief period of time, eventually stopping near Milepost 167. Upon stopping, three Hispanic males fled from the vehicle into the desert. The driver and two occupants remained in the vehicle. Deputies detained the three remaining suspects and discovered two assault-type rifles in the back seat with loaded magazines. They also discovered supplies of perishable food, water and toiletries that appeared to be meant to support drug smuggling operations. The driver was identified as Cindy Madrigal, a 25-year-old Phoenix resident. She was released from custody pending charges for conspiracy to commit drug smuggling. The two other occupants were turned over to US Border Patrol. The food stuffs and water were donated to a local shelter.
Later that evening, at 11:30 p.m., a PCSO deputy observed a silver Chrysler minivan pulled over to the side of Highway 84, near Milepost 163. As the vehicle resumed travel east on Highway 84, the deputy observed the side door to the minivan was standing open while the vehicle was travelling on Highway 84. The deputy activated his emergency lights and the minivan pulled to the curb. Immediately upon stopping, seven Hispanic males ran from the vehicle into the desert. The driver, later identified as Priscilla Glendena Miguel a 36-year-old San Tan Valley resident, remained with the vehicle and was detained by deputies. There were no other persons left in the van, but the deputy found ten large camouflaged bundles of marijuana, one having a Motorola two-way radio attached to the backpack strap. The marijuana weight was later determined to be 502 pounds. Two of the suspects that fled the van were located by other deputies in the desert south of the traffic stop. They were identified as Mexican nationals, Iran Sayd Valenzuela, 31-years-old and Juan Luis Jacobi, 26-years-old. All suspects were arrested and booked into Pinal County Jail for Drug Smuggling charges. A third smuggler linked to this group was arrested a few hours later by US Border Patrol near Interstate 8. He was found with a 50-pound pack of marijuana. He is identified as Moises Verdugo-Rojo, a 24-year-old Mexican national. He was booked into the Pinal County Jail as well.
On Thursday, Dec. 3 at 2:40 p.m., a PCSO deputy observed Ford SUV travelling south on State Route 347 near Papago Rd. After observing the vehicle travelling over the posted speed limit the deputy initiated a traffic stop. The SUV pulled to the side of the road and nine Hispanic males wearing camouflaged clothing ran from the vehicle. With assistance from the Ak-Chin police department, five of the nine that ran from the vehicle were detained. All five were identified as having recently entered the United States illegally from Mexico and were turned over to US Border Patrol for processing.
At 4:20 p.m., on Dec. 3, a deputy observed two vehicles travelling west on Interstate 8, then exit on Highway 84 and stop near the highway. After a few minutes, both cars returned to Interstate 8, this time, going eastbound. Near the Stanfield Rd. exit, both vehicles pulled to the side of the Interstate for less than one minute, then resume travel eastbound. Recognizing this as possible smuggling activity, the deputy attempted to stop one of the vehicles, a green Nissan sedan. The car slowed on the Interstate to twenty miles-per-hour and then stopped near milepost 163. Immediately after stopping, two Hispanic males ran from the vehicle, one north across the highway and the other south into the desert. Neither suspect was located, but the deputy found 2 bales of marijuana in the Nissan, weighing a total of 50 pounds. The second vehicle was a gold Mercury sedan. It was stopped about one mile to the east. There were four Hispanic male occupants that fled from the vehicle as soon as it pulled to the side of the Interstate. None of those suspects were located.