Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Feds bust Iraqi-Mexican drug operation

Staff reports Updated: August 18, 2011 at 12:00 am

SAN DIEGO — Federal officials said Thursday they've taken down a drug and weapons trafficking ring involving members of San Diego's Iraqi community and a major Mexican drug cartel that was caught selling large amounts of drugs, guns and grenades.

Police in El Cajon said more than 60 suspects linked to the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate were arrested.

Smugglers were shipping drugs from El Cajon to Iraqis in Detroit, where the Chaldean syndicate is based, authorities said.

El Cajon and federal police said they arrested 60 people and seized 18 pounds (8.16 kilograms) of methamphetamine, cocaine and other drugs; more than 3,500 pounds (1,588 kilograms) of marijuana; $630,000 in cash; four IEDs; and more than 30 guns, including assault rifles.

Police said the operation had a Mexican military source. In April, a Drug Enforcement Agency undercover agent was shown a hand grenade by an immigrant and was told additional grenades were available from a Mexican military store.

The investigation focused on an Iraqi social club in El Cajon that authorities said is a hub of criminal activity conducted by Iraqi organized crime. Crimes including attempted murder, sales of meth and marijuana, gambling and illegal firearms sales have been reported at the club.

El Cajon police have for years received complaints from neighbors and the wives of men who attended the club. The managers of the club are aware of the criminal activity and demand a cut of the money, according to authorities. Armed guards are allegedly provided during high-stakes card games.

The club's troubles go back more than a decade. In 1998, police seized illegal slot machines. In 2007, it was identified as a gathering spot for Iraqi narcotics distributors. In 2009, authorities started investigating the illegal sale of firearms and possession of hand grenades.

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