Four residents of Tijuana, Mexico, face federal drug trafficking charges in connection with a Southern California methamphetamine seizure that authorities say was "record-breaking" because of its size.
The suspects — identified as 37-year-old Rafael Alzua, 41-year-old Galdrino Contreras, 41-year-old Mario Contreras, and 44-year-old Ethgar Velazquez — are accused of attempting to transport large quantities of meth after police found them unloading a vehicle filled with the illegal substance on Thursday.
Agents tracked the group to a spot in San Diego County's National City after noticing that a 20-foot-long commercial box truck had crossed the border between Mexico and the U.S. through an entry point in Otay Mesa, near Tijuana. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California alleges that agents then saw the men removing dozens of cardboard boxes from the truck and into a Dodge van. Both vehicles allegedly contained about 148 bundles of a material that tested positive for methamphetamine, according to the statement.
Federal authorities said contents of the seized packages weighed more than 5,000 pounds, an amount they believe constituted at least one of San Diego County's largest methamphetamine busts in history.
The four men were arrested during the seizure and charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, classified as a schedule II controlled substance due to its high potential for dependency and recreational abuse. If convicted, such charges carry substantial maximum penalties that include a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison along with a $10 million fine.
"This monumental seizure represents another win against drug cartels that fuel addiction in the United States," said Shelly S. Howe, DEA Special Agent in Charge, in a statement issued with the U.S. Attorney's press release. "Because of our great partnerships with other law enforcement agencies, we will continue to disrupt the cartels' flow of drugs into our cities."
Deaths related to methamphetamine use have been on the rise in San Diego in recent years. Large quantities of the drug have been discovered in trucks that entered the country through the Otay Mesa commercial point of entry before.
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