FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 25, 2011
CONTACT: Tim Gaffney
Florence, AZ - The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Team attached with U.S. Border Patrol’s “BORTAC Team 5” has completed another operation to deny, degrade, disrupt and dismantle drug and human trafficking operations in Pinal County. The latest detail ran from May 11th – 13th and 18th – 20th. The operation was focused in the Vekol Valley area.
Participating in the detail were law enforcement members from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, Arizona Department of Public Safety, U.S. Border Patrol Tucson and Yuma Sectors, Bureau of Land Management, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Enforcement and Removal Operations, CBP Office of Air and Marine, Tohono O’odham Police Department, Gila River Police Department, Eloy Police Department, U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Arizona and the Arizona National Guard.
During the six day operation agencies combined arrested 60 suspects, the seizure of 5,433 pounds of marijuana, $115,630 in cash, and 4 firearms. In addition, 5 stolen vehicles were recovered, 7 suspects were prosecuted federally and 38 suspects were prosecuted at the state level. Below are some examples of the cases we were involved with.
May 11th at 1:40 a.m. a group of 12 people were spotted carrying backpacks believed to be containing Marijuana just south of Interstate 8. The group was followed to a location approximately 30 yards south of Interstate 8 where they stopped underneath some brush.
Pinal County SWAT and BORTAC Team 5 moved in and engaged the group. Part of the group was taken into custody under trees at that location along with 10 backpacks of marijuana. Several of the suspects fled south from that location and were captured with the assistance of air support. A total of 10 suspects were apprehended, along with a total of 10 marijuana backpacks (492 lbs), along with a solar charger and other electronic items used for counter surveillance. The suspects and marijuana were turned over to GIITEM for investigation and prosecution.
May 11th at 3:00 a.m. a passenger truck with a flatbed trailer was seen stopped on the south shoulder near milepost 154 on Interstate 8. The driver was observed acting suspiciously, and was observed taking an item from a parked semi trailer at that location and loading it onto his trailer. The truck with the trailer then got back on Interstate 8 and began to travel eastbound. A traffic stop was conducted on the truck on Interstate 8 east of Montgomery Road by AZDPS, Pinal SWAT and Bortac Team 5. The driver was later identified as Hector Armando Quiroz (age 49 of Bonita, California). He was questioned, and subsequently admitted stealing a large crate from the parked semi trailer.
The owner of the semi trailer arrived back at his trailer while this was taking place, and contact was made with him by AZDPS. The semi trailer owner advised that the crate taken contained a turbine worth approximately $100,000. AZDPS then escorted the semi driver to the location of the stop. The semi trailer owner recovered the turbine at the scene of the stop. Quiroz was turned over to PCSO Patrol, and they took the theft case and prosecution on the Quiroz.
May 12th at 11:00 p.m. a group of 8 individuals was observed walking north approximately 3 miles south of Interstate 8 . These 8 individuals walked to I-8, and crossed over the interstate. Pinal SWAT, BORTAC Team 5, and Pinal K-9 moved in to apprehend these individuals, with air assistance. The subjects all fled northwest from that location.
At 2:30 a.m., one of the 8 individuals was apprehended and turned over to Border Patrol. The remainder of the individuals was unable to be located.
May 13th at 8:53 p.m. AZ DPS was involved in a pursuit with a vehicle which was reported stolen out of Glendale. The pursuit ended near Arizona City, and the driver fled on foot. The driver was apprehended by PCSO after a short fight with the deputies. The driver was turned over to AZ DPS for charging.
May 13th at 11:13 p.m. a truck was observed traveling “blacked out” south of Interstate 8. The vehicle was tracked to a location, where it was parked and a driver and passenger were seen “brushing up” the vehicle and leaving it. The driver and passenger were then seen “bedding down” approximately 100 yards from the vehicle.
With the assistance of air, Border Patrol Agents moved in on the driver and passenger, and one of these subjects was taken into custody. Pinal SWAT with BORTAC Team 5 moved in on the vehicle, a 1999 Ford F250, and secured it. The subject in custody was turned over to GIITEM for prosecution. The registration on the vehicle came back to a false address, and the vehicle was seized. The vehicle was a “supply” vehicle used to re-supply scout locations with food, etc.
May 18th at 10:35 p.m. units spotted bodies loading into a car on I-8 east bound. The vehicle then proceeded eastbound on I-8. Pinal SWAT members set up ahead of the vehicle to deploy spikes if needed, and AZDPS initiated a traffic stop. Gila River PD and Pinal SWAT/Bortac Team 5 backed up the DPS unit. The vehicle contained 4 Hispanic males believed to be “scouts”. These subjects were turned over to AZDPS GIITEM and Border Patrol for prosecution.
May 19th at 8:40 p.m. ICE Detention saw multiple subject loading “packs” into a large truck that was also accompanied by two small sedans. These vehicles traveled east on I-8 from that location. With the assistance of ICE and Air, units were able to catch up to the vehicles. A high risk traffic stop was conducted by Gila River PD, BORTAC Team 5 / PCSO SWAT, ICE Agents and AZDPS GIITEM on all three vehicles at approximately milepost 158 on I-8. The passenger of the truck fled, and was quickly apprehended by BORTAC Team 5 K-9. All occupants (total of 8 bodies) were taken into custody, and it was discovered that the cab of the truck had 8 bundles of marijuana weighing approximately 174 lbs.
May 19th at 9:45 p.m. the air unit advised that it had located bodies south of I-8 between Russell Rd and Murphy Rd.. Pinal SWAT and BORTAC Team 5 moved into the location with the assistance of air. No bodies were discovered, and it is believed that the heat signatures were residual from bodies that had been in that location, but made it out before ground units could move in.
May 19th at 10:32 p.m. Pinal SWAT and BORTAC Team 5 had a “blacked out” Ford truck pass one of our elements near Stanfield Road. After passing our personnel, the vehicle immediately fled at a high rate of speed west of Stanfield Rd., and into the desert area. Ground units were unable to maintain a visual on the truck as it traveled further south west into the desert area. Pinal/Bortac attempted to track the vehicle, but eventually lost sign as it traveled toward the gas pipeline road.
Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “These multi agency details have a much greater impact than just in Pinal County. Pinal County is the number one pass through county in America for drug and human trafficking because of the roadways and terrain. The cartels of Mexico have between 75 to 100 lookout posts through this known drug and human smuggling corridor. They use these high vantage points to ensure their loads, whether they are humans or drugs, make it through. Some of these loads stop in Phoenix but many of them are sent throughout the United States. I appreciate the assistance provided by all of these law enforcement agencies to disrupt the cartels activities. We need this continuous law enforcement presence to help protect America until the border is truly secured.”