Police bust Arizona-Mexico drug ring, arrest 12

BISBEE, Arizona Fri Feb 3, 2012 6:55pm EST

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BISBEE, Arizona (Reuters) - Police in southern Arizona have broken up a drug trafficking network that smuggled more than 15 tons of marijuana and cocaine from Mexico and arrested 12 suspects, authorities said on Friday.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said the suspects were arrested in a swoop on homes and stash houses in the small town of Naco on the Arizona-Mexico border earlier this week.

They were among 26 suspects charged in a complaint with crimes including conspiracy, drug trafficking and money laundering. Fourteen suspects remain at large, Horne's office said.

Arizona straddles a major route for Mexican smuggling networks hauling drugs and illegal immigrants north to the United States, and running guns and cash profits back south to Mexico.

"These operations breed violence in both Arizona and Mexico, and my office will continue to work vigorously to bring these drug trafficking organizations to justice," Horne said in a statement.

Horne's office said police had seized more than 30,000 pounds of marijuana and cocaine linked to the trafficking organization, which had been active for more than 15 years.

The organization used backpackers and vehicles to run the drugs across the rugged, high-desert borderlands around Naco, in smuggling forays several times a week.

Once in the United States, the drugs were stored at various stash houses in Naco, nearby Bisbee and Tucson, around 100 miles to the northwest.

The organization would smuggle large amounts of U.S. currency back into Mexico, Horne's office said.

President Barack Obama's administration is working closely with that of Mexican President Felipe Calderon to curb smuggling over the nearly 2,000 mile porous U.S. border with Mexico.

The operation to break up the network was carried out by federal and local police in southern Arizona.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Paul Thomasch)

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