WATSONVILLE—A sweeping drug and weapons bust centered on the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, and headed up by the FBI resulted in the arrest of scores of suspects over the past few weeks, including an arrest in Watsonville Wednesday.
At a press conference Thursday the FBI was joined by Northern District of California District Attorney Dave Anderson and other law enforcement officials in spelling out the enormity of the operation—dubbed Operation Burnt Orange—that included 15 cases and federal charges against 44 defendants.
Officials seized around 1,100 pounds of methamphetamine, in addition to approximately 500 grams of Fentanyl, 20 pounds of cocaine, 20 pounds of heroin, over a dozen firearms and more than $200,000 in cash, Anderson said. Charges will include drug and weapons trafficking and conspiracy.
“One of the methamphetamine seizures has a gross weight of more than 572 pounds,” Anderson said. “This 572-pound seizure represents the largest federal seizure ever of methamphetamine in the northern district of Northern California.”
Most of the drugs come from the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, Anderson said.
On Wednesday The FBI was joined by Watsonville Police, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies and Santa Cruz Police, as they surrounded a home at Freedom Mobile Home Park, 1954 Freedom Blvd. Members of WPD’s Special Response Team arrested 39-year-old Jose Manuel Rodriguez while serving an arrest warrant.
“Rodriguez jumped out of a window at the home and attempted to escape but was quickly caught,” said WPD spokeswoman Michelle Pulido. “He was then turned over to federal authorities.”
The strong police presence, which included a sniper, an armored vehicle and a K9, drew scores of curious onlookers.
The arrests and seizures spanned about a dozen cities from the Bay area and south to Gilroy.
“The charges we are announcing today provide insight today into the entire ecosystem of narcotics trafficking in Northern California, from procurement to transportation to mid-level distribution all the way down to sales at the street level,” Anderson said.
Next at the podium was DEA Special Agent Danny Comeaux.
“Today is a good day for narcotics law enforcement in the Bay Area,” he said. “We successfully put a hurting to the Sinaloa Cartel.”
The 1,100 pounds of methamphetamine is equal to 80 million doses, Comeaux said, which translates to about 11 doses for every citizen of the Bay Area.
“Unfortunately, with all of these drugs comes violence,” he said. “Violence, guns, drugs—it hurts good citizens in the area.”
Anderson further added: “The lawlessness that is described in these charging documents is a profound threat to the healthy aspirations of whole communities of good people. Crime has not gone away while the country shelters in place.”