44 charged, half-ton of meth seized in California operation


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A massive crackdown on drug trafficking in the San Francisco Bay Area has ended with dozens of people being indicted and the seizure of more than a half-ton of methamphetamine, federal authorities announced Thursday.

“Operation Burnt Orange” involved four separate investigations over more than 1 1/2 years and numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

With the help of federal wiretaps and informants, they tracked drug shipments from the Mexico border to the Bay Area, authorities said at a news conference.

In one case, drugs were stashed in a spare tire.

Charges have been filed against 44 people accused of selling drugs supplied by the Sinaloa cartel. A dozen of those named are still at large, authorities said.

The indictments “reflect drug trafficking from procurement, to transportation, to distribution to mid-level dealers, and all the way down to street level sales,” said David Anderson, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California. “Countless individuals and entire communities suffer, but drug traffickers have no regard for the destruction caused in their path.”

A map of a major drug bust showing the results of a large Bay Area-based drug bust linked to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico is displayed at a news conference held by David L. Anderson, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in San Francisco. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group via AP, Pool)

During the operation, authorities seized 1,100 pounds (499 kilograms) pounds of methamphetamine, 500 grams (17.6 ounces) of fentanyl and some 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of cocaine and heroin.

“The scope is breathtaking,” Anderson said.

The amount of methamphetamine seized was described as the largest of its kind by federal agents in the region.

It was enough to provide 80 million doses, said Daniel C. Comeaux, special agent in charge of the DEA’s San Francisco Division.

“Methamphetamine that is pure, potent and cheap has flooded the American market and drug trafficking organizations see an opportunity to profit. They utilize distribution hubs, like the Bay Area, to distribute their poison,” Comeaux said. “As methamphetamine overdoses rise, the significant drug seizures in this investigation has undoubtedly saved lives.”

Also seized was $200,000 in cash and nearly a dozen guns. Authorities alleged that gun parts and weapons, including assault rifles, sniper rifles and a grenade launcher, were acquired in the U.S. but destined for Mexico.

The largest single seizure was in January in Sunnyvale, where 11 weapons and 572 pounds (259.4 kilograms) of meth were taken. The indictments charge five men with illegally buying weapons and gun parts in the U.S. for export to Mexico, including assault weapons.

“The defendants allegedly combined the firearms with grenade launchers assembled in Mexico, and attempted to obtain .50-caliber sniper rifles and grenade launchers for resale on the black market,” according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

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