SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Dozens of suspects in a wide-ranging drug and weapons trafficking operation run by a Mexican drug cartel have been arrested across Northern California, federal authorities announced Thursday morning.
The operation netted 44 arrests on a variety of charges spanning 15 separate cases, including a massive 572-pound methamphetamine bust in Sunnyvale late last month.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California David Anderson announced the unsealing of federal charges during a Wednesday morning press conference. He said the 15 individual cases had resulted in charges including drug trafficking, firearms trafficking and conspiracy against 44 defendants.
Anderson appeared with representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations.
Anderson said the crimes had taken place all over Northern California, but that many were focused in South Bay. Charges stemmed from an overarching investigation that used wiretaps, cell phone location warrants, vehicle tracking warrants, search warrants, undercover purchases and informants to collect evidence.
"The charges we are announcing today provide insight into the entire ecosystem of narcotics trafficking in Northern California, from procurement, to transportation, to midlevel distribution, all the way down to sales at the street level," said Anderson.
Seizures in the operation began in April of last year in the Southern California town of Santa Maria where 11 pounds of cocaine were seized. In all, the bust netted 500 grams of fentanyl, 20 pounds of cocaine, 20 pounds of heroin, over two dozen firearms, more than $200,000 in cash, more than 1,000 pounds of meth.
FBI Special Agent Craig Fair said the busts were the result of a joint FBI/DEA operation nicknamed "Operation Burnt Orange."
"Over the last two weeks, more than 100 federal agents carefully coordinated and executed 15 arrest warrants and 13 search warrants," Fair explained. "It depicts the scale of how massive amounts of drugs and firearms are being pushed through our communities and trafficked on our streets."
Locations included San Jose, Santa Cruz, Vallejo, Half Moon Bay, Southern California and Arizona.
Authorities later provided specific details on some of the individuals arrested in the operation. 54-year-old Mark Ogo and 27-year-old suspect Anthony Christian Valdovinos flew from the Bay Area to to Calexico in Southern California, meeting with 57-year-old suspect William Reidy to purchase more than 26 pounds of methamphetamine Reidy had brought from Mexico to sell in San Jose.
The release from the U.S. Attorney's office states that Ogo and Valdovinos allegedly packed the methamphetamine inside Ogo's rental car and drove the methamphetamine to the Bay Area. Wire communications describe how some of the drugs were hidden inside a spare tire of the rented car Ogo and Valdovinos used to travel back to Northern California.
A separate indictment charged fourteen defendants, mostly South Bay residents, with crimes related to bringing drugs to San Jose from Mexico as well as transporting firearms illegally from the United States to Mexico. 46-year-old David Campoy and his adult son, 21-year-old Jose Melchor Campoy, led the illegal operation that included a dozen other defendants. More details on the criminal enterprise and the defendants are available on the U.S Attorney's website.
Anderson highlighted the seizure of 572 pounds of meth in Sunnyvale that happened on January 27, noting that it was "largest federal seizure ever" of meth in northern district in California. The Sunnyvale seizure also included 16 firearms. David Campoy and his son were arrested at the time of the seizure.
Anderson said that a "vast majority" of the drugs were acquired by the traffickers arrested originated in Mexico, with the Sinaloa cartel serving as one of the sources.
Procurement involved acquiring firearms and components in the U.S. for illegal export to Mexico, with purchases and attempted purchases including grenade launchers and .50 caliber sniper rifles.
"Today is a good day for narcotics law enforcement in the Bay Area. We have successfully put a hurting to the Sinaloa cartel," said DEA special agent Daniel Comeaux. "We seized over 1,100 pounds of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and weapons from this organization."
Comeaux said the amount of meth seized constituted 80 million doses of the drug.
That is the equivalent of 11 doses for each of the more than 7.5 million residents in the Bay Area.
"Fentanyl overlays the problems created by methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin. All these are descending onto our community at shocking levels," said Anderson.
He also explained how wiretaps gave the agencies insight into some of the language being used by dealers.
"An ounce of meth is described as a 'bottle' or 28. A half ounce of meth is a 14 or a 'beer.' A kilogram is a 'torta' and a half kilogram is a 'burrito,'" said Anderson.
He also announced that he would be resigning from his post as of the end of the month.
"The call went out, as it often does at this time, in the changeover of administration for all presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed, U.S. attorneys to step down at this time. And I'm in that grouping," Anderson said.
One of Anderson's initiatives after his appointment was to tackle the notorious drug trafficking in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. That program led to the charging of more than 200 people since it launched last year.
At Thursday's news conference, Anderson declined to answer a question about what he plans to next, saying, with a laugh, the Department of Justice "actually gets a little jumpy about using this platform to promote my private interests, so I won't speak about next steps."
Kenny Choi contributed to this story.
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