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59 Accused of Running Giant Cocaine Cartel

March 18, 1985|Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Federal authorities said today that they have arrested major kingpins in a cocaine-smuggling operation claimed to be responsible for 20% to 25% of the cocaine entering the United States every year.

In a morning news conference, U.S. Atty. Peter K. Nunez said that 59 people are in custody and that nine others are being sought in the investigation, which involves an international cocaine-smuggling cartel operating out of Peru and Colombia.

The arrests were made on criminal complaints and some indictments handed down in recent days by a federal grand jury, and Nunez said a grand jury will hear evidence Thursday against about 20 alleged purchasers and users of the narcotic.

The indictment unsealed today alleged that Augustin Fernando Maurtua, a La Costa, Calif., resident, headed the West Coast distribution network of the operation from northern San Diego County.

'Highest Echelon'

The indictment also alleged that Jose Antonio Ledgard was responsible for East Coast distribution from Miami.

"These people were the highest echelon of the cocaine market in South America and Peru," Nunez said.

Diogenes Galanos, special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration office here, said tons of cocaine were involved in the operation.

Nunez said millions of dollars left the United States illegally as part of the cartel's operation.

The indictment alleged that the cartel had outlets for distribution throughout the United States, including San Diego; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Dallas; Miami; Sun Valley, Ida.; Portland, Ore.; New York City; Atlanta; Hawaii, and Agana, Guam.

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