Informant helps DEA nab alleged traffickers

June 8, 2009 4:28:09 AM PDT
What began with a traffic stop in 2005 has resulted in dozens of arrests and convictions of drug traffickers who otherwise blended into local communities, authorities say. The driver of a gold Chevrolet Malibu pulled over for speeding four years ago became a government informant in exchange for leniency on unrelated criminal charges and has helped authorities uncover at least 68 suspects who helped moved cocaine and cash between the United States and Mexico, the Drug Enforcement Administration says.

The operation that sprang from the informant's information "exposed those members of the Mexican drug cartels operating in our city, camouflaged, unbeknownst to the average citizen," said Zoran Yankovich, head of the DEA's Houston division.

More than $5 million and 3,000 pounds of cocaine were seized, which resulted in nine federal indictments for crimes ranging from homicide to robbery and kidnapping in the Houston area. The informant's identity remains a secret.

Some of the narcotics and cash were found in buses operating between the U.S. and Mexico. One bus owner, Elisa Castillo, was sentenced in May to life in prison. The 53-year-old grandmother told the Houston Chronicle in a jailhouse interview that she was tricked by a friend and is innocent.

The DEA says the traffickers worked mainly for the Gulf Cartel but sometimes helped other organizations.

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