Anne Arundel County police officials divulged details yesterday about a two-year undercover investigation into a drug cartel they say is responsible for shipping $1.8 million worth of marijuana and cocaine to Southern Maryland.
Working with federal drug agents, officers from the Police Department's narcotics unit intercepted two drug shipments headed to midlevel and street dealers in southern Anne Arundel and northern Calvert County from suppliers in El Paso, Texas, authorities said.
Federal prosecutors are poised to prosecute at least a dozen suspected Maryland drug dealers in the next few months in the operation, Anne Arundel police said.
County Executive Janet S. Owens is to visit police headquarters in Millersville this morning to congratulate the department at a joint news conference on the investigation.
'One of our biggest cases'
"I'm really proud of our officers," said Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan. "This is one of our biggest cases" with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Members of an El Paso family with ties to Mexico have pleaded guilty to distribution charges in the case.
Normally, police start at the bottom of a drug organization, arresting street-level dealers and then learning more about the suppliers.
But in this case, said Lt. Randall Jones, head of the county's narcotics unit, "we dismantled the top first, which is unusual."
A county undercover detective worked as a deputized DEA agent for the bulk of the investigation, which began in October 1999, Jones said.
In August, county police and DEA agents reportedly intercepted 200 pounds of marijuana with a street value of about $200,000 arriving from El Paso.
Police raid six county homes
After the shipment was seized, police raided six homes, storage units and businesses in the county, where they reported seizing documents, cash, two semiautomatic handguns and several vehicles.
Two months later, undercover detectives met in El Paso with Manuel Jorquera, 53; his son, Ricardo Jorquera, 30; and daughter, Carla Jorquera, 23. Police said an agreement was reached to sell cocaine to the detectives.
The Jorqueras were arrested in November in El Paso and brought to Maryland for prosecution in January.
Two weeks ago, the three pleaded guilty to distribution charges in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, according to court records.