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18 drug traffickers sentenced after years-long investigation

Posted at 3:04 PM, Feb 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-08 17:04:32-05

The last member of a Mexican Drug Trafficking organization was sentenced Wednesday for smuggling marijuana through the Tohono O'odham Reservation.

The U.S. District Attorney's office, District of Arizona, sentenced Arturo Tellez-Berrelleza, 32, to 21 months' imprisonment. Tellez-Berrelleza previously plead guilty to a drug trafficking offense. 

He is the final defendant to be sentenced in an investigation into a marijuana smuggling network.

The First Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange says their office is "committed to prosecuting transnational criminal organizations that seek to smuggle drugs through Arizona." 

Special Agent Scott Brown, in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Phoenix, said, "members of this drug trafficking organization will no longer plague the southern border with their illicit criminal activity and flood our community with large quantities of drugs."

Federal law enforcement officials began this investigation in October 2015. The U.S. Attorney's Office says this drug trafficking organization relied heavily on "scouts," who are people who stay on high ground to guide marijuana backpacking groups past law enforcement and "resuppliers." 

"Resuppliers" are responsible for giving scouts food, water and other supplies like camping and communications equipment.

Officials say about 12,077 pounds of marijuana were seized during the course of this investigation.

18 members of this drug trafficking organization were prosecuted with sentences ranging up to 37 months' imprisonment. They were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Rossi and Susanna Martinez in the District of Arizona, Tucson.