DEA busts major international drug operation with Phoenix ringle - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

DEA busts major international drug operation with Phoenix ringleader

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Photo: Drug Enforcement Agency via KPNX Photo: Drug Enforcement Agency via KPNX

A major drug trafficking operation with Arizona ties has been shut down.

The Drug Enforcement Agency arrested more than a dozen people including the ringleader, Ramon Llamas of Phoenix.

The investigation lasted more than two years and included agents in multiple states.

“This was a multi-state transportation and drug trafficking cell,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Doug Coleman.

The multi-pronged operation included drug smugglers in Mexico and several traffickers stateside. Llamas’s son Juan was also part of the operation.

“(Ramon) Llamas used his son Juan to broker deals in the East Coast,” said Coleman.

Agents say Catalina Estell would help package and ship the drugs that included marijuana and methamphetamine across the country.

“She would send out 15 packages and they know they would lose three but 12 would make it through,” said Coleman.

The drug cell also had help from a U.S. Airways employee who used his position to transport money back and forth from the East Coast to Phoenix.

Donald Hamilton was arrested after agents say he caught a flight from Philadelphia to Phoenix with $300,000 in drug proceeds.

“We have him saying he could get through security without being checked,” said Coleman.

The investigation and court cases concluded at the end of last year with 17 people indicted. Ramon Llamas was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Donald Hamilton was sentenced to eight years. Other people involved were sentenced to anywhere from a few years to more than dozen.

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