'Large scale' international ecstasy operation busted in Valley

Posted at 1:53 PM, Mar 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-02 00:41:48-05

Arrests have been made in Mesa, Glendale and at Sky Harbor Airport involving an international ecstasy operation capable of producing 15,000 pills per hour.

Court paperwork shows four people were arrested for alleged involvement in the production and distribution operation. 

Since 2017, Drug Enforcement Agency investigators have been investigating the 'large-scale' ecstasy drug trafficking operation in the Valley. The Pinal County Sheriff's Office also assisted in the investigation.

Court paperwork shows the group consisted of 27-year-old Long Phi Le, Daniel Min Kim, 26, Ronald Eugene Brown, 48, and Rafael De La Cuesta, 27. 

Investigators say they would import about 50 kilograms of pure ketamine from Europe and have it sent to various mailboxes at UPS stores in Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale and Sun City. Le would allegedly pick up the parcels and deliver them to multiple homes in the Valley. There, they would be processed into ecstasy pills. 

Some of the drugs would then be sold here in the Phoenix area. Other pills would be packaged and given to Ronald Brown, who would reportedly use his status as a baggage handler for Piedmont Airlines, to smuggle the drugs onto planes, for distribution around the United States. 

Police raided five homes where they reportedly found several pounds of ecstasy, 130 pounds of precursor chemicals, and industrial pill press equipment capable of producing 15,000 pills an hour.

They say they also located containers, shipping labels, and over $400,000 in drug proceeds.

Investigators say Kim was arrested on February 22 at a home near Dobson and Guadalupe roads where they were manufacturing the drugs. He was found with a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. 

Brown was arrested the next day at Sky Harbor International Airport with a recently purchased ticket to Cancun, Mexico. 

Le was arrested at his home in Glendale near 59th Avenue and Union Hills Drive, and Cuesta was caught at his home in Mesa near Stapley Drive and Southern Avenue. 

They have all been charged with conspiracy, money laundering, drug possession, and conducting an illegal enterprise.