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Drug bust nets man recently deported

Wed., Nov. 2, 2011

Cartel regenerates quickly, sheriff says

FLORENCE, Ariz. – A drug cartel member who was deported to Mexico as part of a major smuggling bust announced this week in Arizona has already returned to the U.S. and been caught with $1.6 million worth of drugs – yet another example of how relentless and seemingly unstoppable Mexican cartels can be, officials said Tuesday.

Francisco Guillermo Morales Esquer, 36, was arrested Oct. 13 in one of three major busts that state and federal officials credited with dismantling the smuggling ring, which is believed to be tied to the Sinaloa cartel – Mexico’s most powerful.

The busts were announced Monday at a Phoenix news conference in which officials displayed hundreds of pounds of drugs and dozens of guns they had seized.

Morales’ arrest came about five hours later when a deputy clocked him driving at 50 mph in a 15 mph school zone in Stanfield, about 50 miles south of Phoenix. A chase ensued at speeds of up to 100 mph during which officials said Morales tried to hit a deputy who was putting down stop sticks.

The 3-mile chase ended in the desert after Morales crashed his car and jumped into an irrigation canal. After he was arrested, deputies found 80 pounds of white- and black-tar heroin and 8 pounds of methamphetamine in the car.

Morales was booked on charges of drug smuggling, possession of drug paraphernalia, felony flight and aggravated assault.

Catching Morales two weeks after he was arrested as part of the department’s larger bust involving the Sinaloa cartel was the height of irony, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said at a Tuesday news conference.

“Here we strike a body blow on the Sinaloa cartel, (and) they’re still operating in a robust fashion,” he said. “They can regenerate immediately.”

Although Morales was found in a home tied to the cartel during the Oct. 13 bust, he wasn’t identified as a main target of the investigation and prosecutors didn’t have enough to convict him, Babeu said. Guns were found in that home, but not drugs.


 

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