SAN DIEGO — U.S. drug agents have arrested six alleged smugglers and confiscated 4 1/2 tons of cocaine, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents posing as illegal freight haulers took delivery of the cocaine, worth an estimated $80 million, off the coast of Mexico about 1,600 miles south of San Diego, U.S. Atty. William Braniff said.
A drug ring thought to be the infamous Medellin cartel shipped the 4,100 kilograms of cocaine by ocean liner from Colombia to the undercover agents on Oct. 26.
Cartel members gave undercover agents more than $800,000, thinking they were paying to transfer 198 hay bale-size packages of cocaine from Mexico to San Diego, U.S. Customs Special Agent in Charge Jack Kelley said Wednesday at a news conference in National City.
Investigators monitored drug shipment arrangements between smugglers in the U.S. and Colombia by tapping a cellular phone provided to the smugglers by undercover agents, DEA officials said.
Two Colombia-based members of the cartel were identified through the taped conversations, said DEA Special Agent in Charge Julius Beretta.
Yesid Rodriguez-Barrerro and a man using an alias of Pedro Pablo remain at large, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Shane P. Harrigan.
They and the six people arrested last month were named in a federal indictment handed down Wednesday. All were accused of conspiracy to smuggle and distribute cocaine.
Arrested Nov. 23 and 24 were Jack Donald Holloway, 45, a U.S. citizen living in Colombia; Humberto Mena, 32, of Los Angeles; William Osorio, 27, of Huntington Beach; Elsie Londono-Berrio, 43, of Brea; Jose Alberto Espinoza-Cortez, 26, of Van Nuys; and Edgardo Sandoval-Rodriguez, 25, of Pasadena. Holloway was arrested at an undercover agent's house in Carlsbad. The others were arrested at residences and warehouses in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Also involved in the investigation were the San Diego district attorney's office, Carlsbad Police Department, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs Service, Internal Revenue Service and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.