Major meth bust nets 22 arrests, $40 million in drugs

State and local law enforcement officials Monday announced the successful takedown of a transnational drug trafficking organization based in Contra Costa County.

During “Operation Road Trip,” the culmination of several related investigations into Mexico’s Sinaloa Federation drug cartel, law enforcement agents over the past year seized more than 500 pounds of methamphetamine, more than $700,000 and made 22 arrests in Contra Costa County alone, according to state Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office.

The operation is a merger of two investigations by the West Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team, or West-NET, the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force (LA IMPACT) and additional local, state and federal agencies.

The investigation revealed that Mexican methamphetamine was being delivered to the “Nitro” gang in Southern California, which then took “road trips” to Contra Costa County to distribute the meth to other drug trafficking gangs, according to Harris’s office.

In 2011, a two-year operation led by West-NET shut down a network of local and transnational gangs that included a Norteno gang in western Contra Costa County, according to the attorney general’s office.

That operation, named “Operation Red Reach,” led to the seizure of 135 pounds of meth, 26 illegal guns and about $150,000 as well as federal and state convictions of 26 suspects. Information gathered during Operation Red Reach led law enforcement to identify the involvement of the Northern California “Urtiz” gang in the transnational drug trafficking.

A subsequent operation revealed that the Urtiz gang’s meth was being supplied by the “Nitro” gang, which was under separate investigation by LA IMPACT. The three operations have resulted in the seizure of more than 1,100 pounds of meth with a street value of $40.2 million, according to Harris’s office.

In addition, the operation turned up a total of $1.82 million in cash, 48 guns and 10 vehicles and resulted in the arrests of 67 people for drug and weapons violations.

According to the state attorney general’s office, transnational criminal organizations have made California the single biggest entry point for meth in the U.S. Following the release of a report in March that outlined the growing threat of meth trafficking in California, Harris led a delegation of state attorneys general to meet with Mexican attorneys general and federal officials to discuss drug, human and gun trafficking as well as money laundering and high-tech crime.

Harris announced earlier this month that the California Department of Justice plans to create a new anti-methamphetamine task force dedicated to investigating meth manufacturing and distribution.