U.S. arrests 22 in New Mexico, says they
swapped stolen cars for drugs
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[June 27, 2014]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Twenty-two
people were arrested on Thursday in New Mexico and charged with
participation in a ring that stole luxury cars and swapped them for
drugs from a Mexican cartel, authorities said.
The arrests were part of "Operation VIN-a-Palooza," a reference to
the acronym for vehicle identification number. The operation
involved local, state and federal agencies, Immigration and Customs
Enforcement said in a statement.
The statement alleged that the ring was working for Mexico's Sinaloa
cartel and was believed to have stolen hundreds of Hummers and other
luxury vehicles from lots in Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
The vehicles were illegally shipped to Mexico in exchange for
methamphetamine and heroin that was then trafficked throughout New
Mexico, it said.
The arrests followed a 10-month investigation. Agents and officers
also seized seven firearms as well as methamphetamine, heroin and
About 34 luxury vehicles with an estimated value of $2 million have
been recovered, the statement said.
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The defendants face state charges that include racketeering, stolen
vehicles and money laundering. The investigation is ongoing and some
defendants may face federal charges, it said.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by David Gregorio)
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