SANTA ANA — Ending an eight-month sting operation, authorities in Orange County and Massachusetts arrested six men suspected of arranging a $7-million cocaine deal with undercover officers, the FBI said Wednesday.
The Tuesday night sting included a member of a Medellin, Colombia, drug cartel, who was in the United States to oversee the cocaine transaction, said Linus Danilevicius, special agent for the FBI's Santa Ana office.
Arrested in Los Angeles County on federal drug charges were: Mario Vincente Toro Soto, 39, of Medellin, Colombia; Gilberto Esquer, 32, of Tucson; Alfonso Jesus Garfias, 27, also of Tucson, and Eduardo Coronel-Gandara, 34, of Mexico.
Arrested in Boston were David Boersner, 34, of Lincoln, Mass., and Alfredo A. Kolster, 25, of Charlestown, Mass., Danilevicius said.
The men held in California were arraigned in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Danilevicius said, and were being held on an unspecified amount of bail.
The arrests were made without incident after the suspects allegedly left 118 kilos of cocaine in a parked truck in Buena Park, FBI officials said.
"Orange County is a major cocaine importation area," said FBI Special Agent James M. Donckels. "This is just more evidence of the fact that we have a continuing problem."
FBI officials said he sting operation began in April, when an informant tipped authorities about a drug ring operating out of Boston. An FBI agent infiltrated the ring, posing as a drug buyer. The agent initially negotiated for 500 kilos of cocaine, to be shipped from Colombia, Danilevicius said.
Arrangements were finally made to pick up the drug in Orange County, he said. The Orange County Regional Narcotics Suppression Program and Santa Ana Police Department narcotics officers were recruited to help in the investigation, Danilevicius said.
Tuesday night, undercover officers were told to pick up the drug in a Dodge van, parked at a Holiday Inn near the Artesia Freeway and Beach Boulevard.
As agents picked up the car, other officers were tailing the four suspects elsewhere. Toro Soto, Coronel-Gandara and Esquer were picked up outside Los Angeles International Airport after they dropped off a rental car, Danilevicius said.
Garfias was stopped in Wilmington. He was arrested without incident, but a woman who was in the car with him was released.
Meanwhile, agents in Boston arrested Boersner and Kolster, Danilevicius said.