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PCSO: 482 pounds of pot seized, 5 arrested in Phoenix bust

Posted at 10:30 AM, Feb 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-15 15:05:07-05

Multiple people were arrested and nearly 500 pounds of marijuana were seized in a Wednesday morning raid in Phoenix.

A Pinal County Sheriff's Office spokesperson confirmed five people were taken into custody and 482 pounds of marijuana were taken from a home near 37th and Grand avenues.

The seizure and arrests were part of a 14-month operation conducted by PCSO's Anti-Smuggling Unit and Border Patrol agents, investigating a trafficking organization smuggling pot from Mexico. 

The group reportedly used scouts in mountainside areas of Pinal County to help backpackers navigate through the desert to avoid authorities. Backpackers would arrive at predetermined locations along the I-8 and I-10 corridor, then the drugs would be taken to various homes in Phoenix and distributed around the country.

According to PCSO, over the course of the investigation, detectives seized multiple weapons, more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, and several vehicles. 

Officials said six children were found inside the home at the time of the Wednesday morning raid.

Leonidas Nieblas Leyva, Salome Gil, Luis Luna, Hector Cruz Rojo, and Casear Perez have been identified as the suspects taken into custody. They are facing various charges, including conspiracy, transporting marijuana, and participating and assisting a criminal syndicate.

"This is a billion dollar business, they're constantly trying to stay ahead of us, we're constantly trying to stay ahead of them," said Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb. "They do have confidence they can get it here and we have confidence we can keep taking them down."