California border agent linked to massive drug trafficking operations with Mexican cartels arrested and charged

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When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Operation Lone Star more than three years ago, he wanted to stop millions of people entering the country through Texas in the absence of proper federal government help to secure the border. Despite being constantly under fire for implementing controversial measures, he defended the program, citing health and safety concerns, among others. He repeatedly claims that Operation Lone Star not only helps Texas but also the country as a whole. And he was right.

The issues

The goal of curbing illegal immigration is not only to stop individuals from entering the country illegally, but also to stop large quantities of drugs from entering from Mexico. This especially applies to fentanyl, a drug that has become especially popular in recent years. According to data from the National Institutes of Health, drug overdose deaths increased from 2019 to 2022, with 107,941 reported in 2022. Deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (primarily fentanyl) continued to rise, with 73,838 overdose deaths reported in 2022. With the current immigration crisis, the risk of smuggling drugs still remains very high.

“Coordinated takedown” in California

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that 47 individuals, including a border agent, face charges related to a drug trafficking ring in Southern California. This network, connected to the Sinaloa cartel, was distributing fentanyl and methamphetamine. Last Wednesday, the Justice Department issued 14 different indictments against these individuals after over 400 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers conducted a “coordinated takedown,” resulting in 36 arrests. Eleven of the accused were still at large as of Wednesday.

This announcement followed a lengthy investigation during which law enforcement executed 25 search warrants on Wednesday, in addition to previous searches. The searches led to the seizure of four kilograms (about 8.8 pounds) of fentanyl and over 324 kilograms (more than 714 pounds) of methamphetamine. Authorities also confiscated significant amounts of cocaine and heroin, along with 52 firearms, which included both handguns and rifles.

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“With this takedown, the Justice Department has dealt yet another blow to the Sinaloa Cartel and its associates,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “I am grateful to the more than 400 law enforcement officers whose work in this operation resulted in dozens of arrests, charges against 47 defendants, and the seizure of firearms, meth, cocaine, heroin, and two million potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. We will continue to be relentless in our fight to protect American communities from the cartels.”

Alexander Grindley was also arrested and was charged with trafficking methamphetamine while working as a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

U.S. Border Patrol agent among those involved

Additionally, the investigation led to the arrest of Alexander Grindley, who was charged with trafficking methamphetamine while working as a U.S. Border Patrol agent. This case has sparked several related investigations across this district and others. The charges laid out in the indictments encompass drug trafficking, money laundering, and offenses related to firearms. According to court filings, the accused operated across various locations in the Imperial Valley, including Brawley, El Centro, Westmoreland, Imperial, Calexico, Niland, Holtville, and Calipatria, as well as in Mexicali, Mexico.

Read also: Illegal immigrants can enter in Texas and California ‘quicker than usual’ under the new executive order

Impacting the market

The investigation uncovered a significant drop in the price of fentanyl pills over time. Initially, in June 2021, individuals targeted in the investigation were purchasing these pills in the Imperial Valley for around $1.65 to $1.75 each. By December 2021, the discussed price had fallen to about $1.25 per pill. By May, the price had further plummeted to just 45 cents per pill, which is less than one-third of the price from three years prior.

This drastic reduction in price indicates a surge in the supply and accessibility of fentanyl entering the United States. It also highlights the strong connections between the individuals targeted in this investigation and their supplier from the Sinaloa Cartel, who provided the fentanyl pills.

Alexander Grindley was also arrested and was charged with trafficking methamphetamine while working as a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Credit: U.S. Department of Justice

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“This investigation tore apart a drug trafficking network responsible for supplying dealers in communities across the region,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath for the Southern District of California. “But there is still much work to be done. If you’re a parent and today’s price of fentanyl terrifies you, talk to your kids about the dangers of drug use. If you’re an addict and your dealer was arrested today, seek treatment. And if you’re a dealer but your supplier was arrested today, look out – we are coming for you next.”

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