Citizen Staff Writer
Santa Cruz County Metro Task Force has seized an estimated 2.5 tons of marijuana smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico and arrested two men, Santa Cruz Sheriff Antonio Estrada said Wednesday morning.
In an area known for its drug- and people-smuggling routes, the seizure of the pot, several vehicles and $70,000 in cash, is considered a large haul, he said. “It’s a pretty big seizure and a pretty big case.”
Estrada said drug agents Wednesday morning also were trying to open a safe found at “Eddie’s Arena” along the Patagonia Highway about 10 miles northeast of the Nogales Port of Entry.
Estrada provided this account:
The investigation began about 5 p.m. Tuesday when drug agents spotted a dual-axle pickup sitting low to the ground near the Nogales border crossing and followed it to the roping arena.
When agents arrived, a number of suspects fled, but arena owner Heriberto Elias-Aguirre, 51, and Jesus Artalejo, age and address unavailable, stayed behind.
Although Artalejo is believed to have been a driver, it was not known if he operated the pickup agents followed to the arena.
Agents were given permission to search the area and found the marijuana.
Elias-Aguirre was arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana and conspiracy; Artalejo, on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sale.
Agents seized 300 to 400 bundles of marijuana, the cash, the safe, numerous trucks and two all-terrain vehicles.
DAVID L. TEIBEL