Sheriff’s task force watching for drug-smuggling scouts


It is the time of year when drug-smuggling gets active in Pinal County corridors from the Mexican border to Phoenix. The West Desert Task Force of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is on the lookout for scouts.

PCSO spokesman Jim Knupp said the smuggling activity declines around the holidays, but that does not last long.

“Members of law enforcement have already become aware of hilltop scouts returning to the hills on the Tohono O’odham Nation,” he said.

That is a target area for the task force, which particularly seeks out hilltop scouts who watch for law officers while smugglers make their way through the desert below.

Last year in three sting operations, the task force arrested 19 people. Most were charged with conspiracy in possession of marijuana for sale and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. The stings were carried out in March, September and October.

“By crippling the cartels’ ability to move drugs without fear of law enforcement involvement, they are being forced to use different passage to cross the border,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said.

In the past two years, the task force has seized 101 tons of marijuana, made 1,677 apprehensions, seized or recovered 514 vehicles and seized or recovered 67 firearms.

The WDTF is a joint initiative between U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the Pinal County Sheriff's Office to combat narcotics trafficking in the West Desert region of Arizona. The task force is supported by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force and works in association with the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats and its participating agencies.

PCSO West Desert Task Force arrests
(Two additional defendants have cases outstanding and were both set for trial this month.)
Jose G. Aispuro-Angulo, 34 of Mexico, 2.5 years in DOC
Jose Isabel Aispuro-Angulo, 29 of Mexico, 2.5 years in DOC
Jose Javier Aispuro-Rodriguez, 23 of Mexico, 2.5 years in DOC
Jesus Aragon-Mancinas, 24 of Mexico, 2.5 years in DOC
Gaudencio Astorga-Soto, 20, 2.5 years in DOC
Jose Coronel-Pena, 30, 2.5 years in DOC
Jesus De La Rocha-De La Rocha, 26 of Mexico, set for trial in February
Jose Angel Felix-Ramirez, 25 of Mexico, Bench Warrant
Jose Gambino-Ruiz, 26 of Mexico, 2.5 years in DOC