Arizona

Jun 16, 2014 2:14 PM by Scott Oathout

Eight Mexican Drug Cartel 'scouts' arrested in Pinal County

PINAL COUNTY- The Pinal County Sheriff's Office announced Monday the arrests of eight Mexican Drug Cartel 'scouts' in the spring of 2014.

According to the PCSO spokesman Tim Gaffney, the eight men worked as 'scouts' for cartel guides as they smuggled drug loads and humans through the most active drug and human smuggling corridors.

The men would sit on hilltops and alert guides and members of the Mexican Drug Cartels when law enforcement was in the area, Gaffney said.

Gaffney said the investigation first began on February 20, when Ramon Garcia, 22, was pulled over near Sunland Gin Road and West Pretzer Road. He admitted to the deputy, that 'spotters' told him to run, but he didn't.

Inside the vehicle, nearly 600 pounds of food, produce, and meat was found.

Ramon said he was paid to drive the supplies to 'scouts' in the desert, Gaffney said.

After the arrest, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, and the Pinal County Attorney's Office initiated a 'Scout Interdiction' initiative.

On March 7, members of the Pinal County Sheriff's SWAT and Anti-Smuggling Enforcement Unit, along with the U.S. Border Patrol, found three scouts on a hilltop near Stanfield, Gaffney said.

The men fled from the hilltop, but were apprehended by officers.

Jesus Nunez-Rios, 27, Jose Aispuro, 23, and Jose Gambino-Ruiz, 25, were in possession of nine cell phones, three cell phone chargers, binoculars and other surveillance equipment, Gaffney said.

Nunez-Rios and Aispuro said they had been on the hilltop for eight to ten days working as a 'scout' for groups in the area.

Gambino-Ruiz said he was abandoned by his guide and climbed the hilltop to avoid law enforcement.

Gaffney said on March 10, another group of 'scouts' was located near Red Rock.

Two 'scouts', Sergio Ramirez-Ojeda, 32, and Francisco Noriega-Nunez, 30, were arrested by officers.

The men were in possession of multiple cell phones, radios and binoculars.

Noriega-Nunez also admitted to having an AR-15 rifle, Gaffney said.

According to Gaffney, two more 'scouts' were located near Stanfield on March 10, near the same hilltops where the other 'scouts' were arrested on March 7.

Jesus DeLaRocha, 25, said he was a paid 'scout' for cartels.

Miguel Ochoa-St. Cairos, 30, told officers he was with a group of migrants, when a man named "Gordo" took him to the top of the hill and gave him food.

The seven men arrested on the hilltops March 7 and March 10 have been charged with Conspiracy to Smuggle Marijuana and Aiding in a Criminal Syndicate, Gaffney said.

All of the men are Mexican nationals, Gaffney said.

"The arrest of these drug cartel scouts on mountain tops is further proof that the border is not secure," Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said. "The federal government continues to put up signs warning Americans that it is not safe to travel due to criminal smuggling."

"President Obama should redirect the endless money he's spending on supporting illegals and unaccompanied children and finally secure the US/Mexican Border," Babeu said. "Most Americans would be shocked to learn that Mexican Drug Cartels control high points along their trafficking corridors to safeguard the billion dollar operations."

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