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.