PCSO reported arresting 21 smuggling suspects in three actions Thursday morning in the Maricopa/Stanfield area. PCSO photo

Pinal County Sheriff’s detectives worked with the U.S. Border Patrol Thursday morning in the western desert of Pinal County to seize 1,737 pounds of marijuana and arrest 21 people in three locations.

The first contact was made by a PCSO deputy on Interstate 8 near milepost 157 at 2:30 a.m. The deputy observed a Ford Focus sedan pull from the side of the interstate and head east at a high rate of speed. The deputy stopped the car near the Stanfield Road exit.

When the deputy approached the car, he noticed six occupants and a camouflaged bale in the back seat that he suspected of being marijuana. One suspect fled from the vehicle, and five others were detained.

A search of the car reportedly netted three bales of marijuana totaling 150 pounds. Of the five people detained, three were Mexican Nationals in the country illegally and two were U.S. citizens.

The second seizure took place near Meadowview Road and State Route 347. A deputy on routine patrol observed a gold minivan turn onto Meadowview from SR 347 at 5:45 a.m. The deputy turned onto Meadowview and saw that the van had pulled to the side of the road and a group of 14 males were running toward the van with large packs.
The deputy suspected smuggling activity and activated his emergency lights. The males running toward the van all dropped the packs and ran back into the desert. The van was unoccupied. The deputy located 14 large bales of marijuana packaged in camouflaged material near the van and in the nearby desert. The total weight of the seized marijuana was 592 pounds. None of the suspectes or van driver were located.

At 8 a.m., the Border Patrol requested assistance from PCSO with a group of 40 smugglers walking through a wash near Hidden Valley Road and Century Road. PCSO responded with ground and air units to help locate and apprehend the suspects.

Over a period of three hours and in rugged mountain terrain, 16 of the estimated 40 smugglers were apprehended by both Border Patrol agents and PCSO detectives from the Anti-Smuggling Unit. Forty bales of bundled marijuana weighing 995 pounds were located in the area where the suspects had fled into the desert from the wash.

“This is further evidence that the Mexican Cartels continue their aggressive smuggling operations,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “Our heroes in the U.S. Border Patrol deserve the full support of the President and our government to fully enforce immigration law and secure the border at the border, not 70 miles north where these smuggling crimes occurred.”

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