Almost 900 pounds of cocaine was seized late Friday with the arrest of three people, including a nurse and her 62-year-old mother, federal drug authorities announced.
It is the largest amount of the drug ever taken in a San Diego County surveillance operation.
"Obviously, this comes from a major organization," said Charles E. Hill, special agent in charge of the federal Drug Enforcement Adminstration in San Diego.
Watched Two Days
He stood Saturday afternoon in the back room of the agency's National City office, surrounded by eight large suitcases and four hefty duffel bags, all full of cocaine. The cocaine was neatly wrapped in piles of large yellow packages.
He said federal drug agents had monitored the three for two days and then arrested them about 11:15 p.m. Friday, when most of the cache was delivered to a parking lot at a Chula Vista.
When agents began opening the trunks of three cars used by the suspects, they were surprised to find so many cocaine-laden suitcases inside.
The agents then went to Imperial Beach, where the duffel bags were recovered from a car parked on a residential street.
A total of four vehicles and 403 kilograms of cocaine, or about 886 pounds, was seized. Authorities estimated the wholesale value of the cocaine at more than $8 million. They said it carried a street value of up to $52 million.
While there have been larger drug seizures in arrests along the border, authorities said that Friday night's arrest was by far the largest amount of cocaine ever netted in a DEA undercover surveillance operation in San Diego County.
She Looked Familiar
Ron D'Ulisse, a DEA spokesman, said he was surprised to realize that he recognized one of the three suspects, 62-year-old Stella Marie Young of Tucson. "I thought to myself, 'Wait a minute. I know her,' " he said.
D'Ulisse said he first met Young in 1974 at an airstrip in Casa Grande, Ariz. He said he arrested her there as she sat in the co-pilot's seat of a plane that had just landed with a load of marijuana from Mexico. She was convicted in that case in 1975 of conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute the drug.
On Saturday, Young, her daughter, Donna Marie Rogers, 36, an out-of-work nurse, and Roberto Sanchez, 30, an Escondido construction worker, were being held on suspicion of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute the drug.