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Pinal County deputies seize 4,000 pounds of marijuana

by Laurie Merrill - Nov. 20, 2011 02:53 PM
Arizona Republic

Pinal County Sheriff's Office deputies cracked a human-and- drug smuggling ring, nabbed more than 4,000 pounds of marijuana, made 10 arrests and seized a gun during a busy week that ended Saturday, said Pinal Spokesman Elias Johnson.

Authorities tracked two abandoned vehicles, a Chevrolet Tahoe and a stolen Chevrolet pickup truck, shrouded by brush and each containing a large amount of marijuana, Johnson said.

The Tahoe, discovered Friday, concealed more than 1,500 pounds while the pickup truck carried more than 1,800 pounds of marijuana, Johnson said. The pickup was seized early Saturday on a trail south of Interstate 8 and Freeman Road.

Also, on Thursday authorities apprehended six illegal immigrants near Stanfield Road south of Interstate 8, Johnson said.

Also participating in the effort were the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Gila River Police Department and the federal Bureau of Land Management, Immigration Customs Enforcement and United States Border Patrol - Tucson Sector.

In other drug smuggling arrests, a deputy stopped two men in a Ford Crown Victoria that had been speeding on the Interstate 10 about 4 p.m. Monday, Johnson said.

As the deputy approached the vehicle, he observed two large bundles of marijuana, 250 pounds, in the back seat, Johnson said. The driver, identified as Leeh Bernice Liston, 42, of Tucson and passenger, Manuel Lopez Gomez of Mexico were arrested, Johnson said.

A deputy traveling north on Stanfield Road made the next bust about 7 p.m. Monday after stopping a speeding, 1998 Chevrolet Suburban. The driver dashed out when the car was pulled over, but the passenger stayed put, Johnson said.

The passenger, believed to be here illegally and taken to the Border Patrol Substation in Casa Grande, was in possession of a 9mm handgun, magazine and 32 rounds of ammunition, Johnson said.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, "Last month we helped deal the Sinaloa Cartel a body blow by taking down several of its key members who used Pinal County as a way to get their drugs into the United States. Despite those efforts, this week proves the problem continues and it will not end until the border is properly secured. "

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