Ringleader of major drug trafficking network connected to Sinaloa Cartel arrested in Oregon

The coordinated takedown operation was conducted by more than 400 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in California, Arizona, and Oregon.

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA

Federal investigators apprehended the ringleader of a major drug trafficking network linked to the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel in Salem, Oregon on Wednesday. This comes as part of a coordinated federal, state, and local takedown of the criminal drug ring that operates in California, Arizona, and Oregon, authorities said

The Imperial Valley-based drug ring is responsible for trying to traffic nine pounds of fentanyl to the United States, which equates to about two million potentially fatal doses, as well as other illicit drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. Authorities arrested 36 defendants, deployed 25 search warrants, and remain searching for 11 fugitives, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California. 

Eduardo Mendoza, 31, also known as "Casper," of Niland, California, who is known to be the ringleader of the massive drug network, was arrested by federal law enforcement agents in Salem on Wednesday as part of the major operation. 

(Eduardo Mendoza)

Kevin Mokhtari, assistant US attorney of the Southern District of California, told KATU that Mendoza was arrested in Oregon after federal agents raided his home in California on Wednesday and discovered he wasn't there. Federal authorities were able to track his location in the Salem area and arrested him. 

Mokhtari said they have not yet determined why Mendoza but stated that the operation is a significant stride toward the removal of drugs that were probably on their way to the I-5 corridor, which serves as a pipeline for drugs that ultimately wind up on the streets of Portland. 

According to the Department of Justice, 47 alleged members of the Imperial Valley-based drug distribution network were charged on Wednesday with drug trafficking, firearms, and money laundering offenses. 

The coordinated takedown operation was conducted by more than 400 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials in California, Arizona, and Oregon. Among those arrested included US Border Patrol agent Alexander Grindley, per the DOJ. 

(Courtesy: Justice Department)

(Courtesy: Justice Department)

"With this takedown, the Justice Department has dealt yet another blow to the Sinaloa Cartel and its associates," said Attorney General Merrick 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." 

The defendants were linked to multiple trafficking groups that were part of a vast network that supplied harmful drugs to Imperial County and beyond, according to the indictments and search warrants. 

"This investigation tore apart a drug trafficking network responsible for supplying dealers in communities across the region," said US Attorney Tara McGrath. "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," she asserted. 

This case is part of an investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF finds, stops, and breaks up the biggest drug cartels, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that pose a threat to the US, according to the Justice Department. 

The following individuals were arrested, per the DOJ.

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