70 arrested in major Arizona drug bust


(CBS/AP/REUTERS) PHOENIX, Az. - Authorities in Arizona seized thousands of pounds of narcotics and arrested at least 70 suspected drug dealers on Thursday, Reuters reports.

The drug bust involved three raids over 17 months, and an official involved with the investigation said the Americans and Mexicans arrested have apparent ties to a violent drug cartel in Mexico. Experts say that cartel handles up to 65 percent of all drugs illegally transported to the United States.

It was the peak of what U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement call as a long-term, far-reaching investigation of the smuggling ring by the agency and the Pinal County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff's spokesman Elias Johnson says the bust is the biggest ever for his department.

Law enforcement officials confiscated drugs, money, weapons, ammunition and bullet-proof vests, part of a "sophisticated network" of international drug smuggling. Drugs were smuggled from Mexico to Arizona by car, plane, on foot, and through tunnels.

Officials say the arrests will help unravel the more mysterious and complicated drug smuggling operations in the United States.

Thursday's seizure involved the same ring that was raided earlier in the month, and which uncovered 935 pounds of marijuana, 12 weapons, ammunition and cash. 17 suspected dealers were also arrested in that raid.

Arizona authorities plan to release more details regarding the drug bust at a press conference Monday.