On Thursday, November 21st, 2013 detectives from the Pinal County Narcotic Task Force assisted members of the U.S. Border Patrol with a marijuana smuggling investigation.
At 12:30 a.m. U.S. Border Patrol agents observed a group of 14 individuals south of Interstate 8 in the Vekol Valley area. Twelve of the individuals were carrying rectangular backpacks believed to contain marijuana. The agents watched the group put the backpacks underneath a tree and then walk approximately 100 yards away and lay down underneath a tree. Agents approached the individuals and several of them ran away on foot. Agents were able to detain 12 of the 14 individuals.
Underneath the tree, agents found 12 backpacks full of compressed and packaged marijuana. The marijuana weighed a total of 562 pounds with a street value of $421,500. All 12 individuals were transported to the Casa Grande Border Patrol Station.
Once at the station, PCSO Narcotic Task Force detectives took over the investigation. The individuals were interviewed and made admissions to illegally crossing the border into the United States on foot 5 to 7 days ago. Twelve of the individuals were carrying backpacks filled with marijuana. Three of the individuals were juveniles and they were also carrying marijuana.
Eight of the individuals, who were adults, were booked into the Pinal County Jail for Possession of Marijuana for Sale, Transportation of Marijuana for Sale and Possession of Marijuana. Rigaberto Alcaraz Verduzco (age 25 of Mexico
), Leonel Elenes Torres (age 22 of Mexico
), Francisco Alcaraz Renteria (age 31 of Mexico
), Julio Samaniego Miranda (age 33 of Mexico
), Rigaberto Villegas Buelas (age 26 of Mexico
), Sergio Verduzco Barreras (age 36 of Mexico),
Oscar Castro Valdez (age 22 of Mexico
) and Alejandro Verdugo Cota (age 26 of Mexico
Three of the individuals were juveniles and were booked for the same charges.
One individual remained in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol.
Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “Our office and members of the U.S. Border Patrol work together daily to combat drug and human smuggling issues in Pinal County. This partnership helped our office in the past as we investigated Operation Pipeline Express which was the largest drug bust in state history. Pinal County is one of the busiest drug and human smuggling corridors in the country because of our roadways and terrain. While the cartels continue to try and push their loads through, we continue to put their members in jail.”