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Operation Kruz Control Delivers Major Action against Large Scale Marijuana Trafficking Organization
Over 27,000 pounds of Marijuana and millions in drug proceeds linked to drug trafficking network

DEC 17 (PHOENIX) – Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman along with U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Sabri Dikman, and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Dawn Mertz today announced the arrests of 11 of 13 suspected members of the Luis Armando Cruz drug trafficking organization (DTO), who works on behalf of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel.  The operation was part of a 12-month multi-agency law enforcement investigation known as "Operation Kruz Control."

Burlap bundles of marijuana. Approximately 1400 pounds of marijuana. Various weapons seized from a stash house.
Burlap bundles of marijuana. Approximately 1400 pounds of marijuana.

Various weapons seized from a stash house.

Since October 12, 2012, Luis Armando Cruz has been identified as the Phoenix-based transportation cell working for the Sinaloa Cartel.  Cruz is responsible for coordinating importation of multi-thousand pounds of marijuana from Mexico (primarily through the Agua Prieta corridor) into New Mexico and Arizona and the smuggling of bulk drug proceeds back into Mexico.  The Cruz DTO uses multiple load drivers and backpackers to facilitate drug transportation operations in the remote desert area near San Simon and Willcox, Arizona for further delivery to Tucson and Phoenix.

 "DEA and its partners are successfully striking back at drug traffickers who use the Arizona corridor to move their drugs into the United States and their illicit proceeds back to Mexico," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman. "This investigation identified a transportation cell that used human backpackers to smuggle thousands of pounds of marijuana across the Arizona/Mexico border. The message to these criminals should be clear—use the cross border area at your own risk."

On December 13, 2013, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies conducted simultaneous arrest and search warrants on suspected members of the drug trafficking organization and their stash houses in Phoenix and Willcox, Arizona.   During Friday's enforcement action, agents seized 1,400 pounds of marijuana, seven rifles, two handguns, a shotgun, two homes, nine vehicles, an ATV Quad and a bank account.

In addition to Friday's enforcement action, "Operation Kruz Control" has led to the seizure of $200,000 U.S currency, 6,500 pounds of marijuana, six vehicles and a King Quad ATV. 

"We are very proud of Willcox station agents' contributions to this operation," said Sabri Dikman, Patrol Agent in Charge of the Willcox Border Patrol station. "Border security is truly a joint effort.  Working together with our law enforcement partners enhances our ability to take down criminal organizations resulting in safer communities."

"This is yet another example of multiple agencies working together to tackle and dismantle a sophisticated drug trafficking organization.  Special agents with IRS-CI have the knowledge and expertise necessary to understand and unravel a variety of complex financial transactions" said Dawn Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Office of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

On December 11, 2013, a federal grand jury in Phoenix returned a seven count indictment against Luis Armando CRUZ and 10 other members of the organization.

Those arrested were Luis Armando Cruz, 39; Carlos Antonio GARCIA, 31; Sergio Garcia-MORALES, 32;  Alma Dolores Escalante-FIGUEROA (wife of Cruz), 39; Felipe Escalante-REYES, 22; Carime Itsel Reyes-ESCALANTE, 19; Carlos RAMIREZ, 42; Sergio Robert Ramos-MORENO, 19; Trevon Xavier Marcus-BONDAE, 18; Maxine CARTER, 25;  and Jeremiah Steven WOOLSEY, 24.

The investigation has linked multiple drug seizures since December 2012 totaling over 27,000 pounds of marijuana to the Cruz DTO.

On December 16, 2013, all 11 defendants were arraigned in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven P. Logan and remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals. 

The investigative efforts in 'Operation Kruz Control" were led by DEA with assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol and its Tactical Unit (BORTAC), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, Graham County Attorney's Office, Coolidge Police Department, National Drug Intelligence Center Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX), and SWAT Teams from the Mesa Police Department, Apache Junction Police Department, Tempe Police Department, and the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.

Indictment Charges are: 

 21 U.S.C. § 846
(Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, a Controlled Substance)
 Count 1

21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and   (b)(1)(B)(vii)
(Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, a Controlled Substance)
Count 2

21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C)
(Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, a Controlled Substance)
Counts 3-5
               
21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(D)
(Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, a Controlled Substance)
Count 6

18 U.S.C. § 1956(h)
(Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments)
Count 7
               
21 U.S.C. § 853 and 18 U.S.C. §   982
(Forfeiture Allegations)

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