The anatomy of a Mexican cartel operation based on U.S. soil can be seen in a Tucson, Arizona case in which 40-year-old Joel Sesma Garcia and 41-year-old Gerald Fidel Herrara were sentenced for their roles in a cocaine distribution ring that spanned five states over a four year period, involved over 527 kilograms of cocaine and tens of millions of dollars. Vast amounts of the proceeds were sent back to Mexico, specifically to a region controlled by the Sinaloa Federation, a conglomerate of various criminal organizations commonly referred to as the Sinaloa cartel.
In a previous interview with Breitbart Texas, a federal agent who spoke on the condition of anonymity discussed another Mexican cartel operation and mentioned the Tucson sector. The agent stated, “This cell was undoubtedly Los Zetas, just as any large narcotics ring in the RGV Sector is undoubtedly the Gulf cartel, and any large trafficking ring in the Tucson sector is undoubtedly the Sinaloa Federation.” [Emphasis added.]
The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office simply stated that this was a “cocaine operation,” however, documents obtained by Breitbart Texas reveal that Luis Gastelum-Mendoza, a co-conspirator in the case, was recruited to send cash proceeds to Mexico, via wire transfer. Mendoza acquired the funds in the form of cash in an attempt to conceal the fact that the funds were proceeds of illegal narcotics trafficking activities.
In addition, a co-conspirator identified as “J.M.” performed trafficking and money laundering services between January and April 2012 on behalf of Garcia and Herrera, and transported vehicles from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico to Tucson, AZ to be used in transporting cocaine and proceeds. The vehicles he acquired came from a “J.M.S.”, one of Garcia’s brothers, and were delivered to Garcia in Tucson over the course of a few months.
Between 2008 and mid-2012, Joel Sesma Garcia and Gerald Fidel Herrera conspired to transport large amounts of cocaine from Tucson, AZ to co-conspirators in Brooklyn, NY, Muscle Shoals, AL, Cleveland, OH and Bradenton, FL, who distributed the goods in false compartments in vehicles that were driven by them, or hauled via commercial means. Authorities say the distributors then sent approximately $12 million in bulk cash back to Tucson as payment for the drugs, using the same methods of concealment.
If court documents are any indication, it appears the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Tucson Strike Force, composed of agents and investigators from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Border Patrol, Tucson Police Department, South Tucson Police Department, and Sahuarita Police Department were quite successful in foiling operations directly related to one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime cartels in the world.