The FBI released this photo showing the weapons and drugs seized after a year-long investigation. Photo courtesy of FBI

A sweeping drug and weapons bust centered on the Sinaloa Cartel, and headed up by the FBI, resulted in the arrest of scores of suspects over the past year, including arrests in Gilroy.

At a press conference Feb. 11, the FBI was joined by Northern District of California District Attorney Dave Anderson and other law enforcement officials in spelling out the enormity of the operation—dubbed Operation Burnt Orange—that included 15 cases and federal charges against 44 defendants.

Officials seized around 1,100 pounds of methamphetamine, in addition to approximately 500 grams of Fentanyl, 20 pounds of cocaine, 20 pounds of heroin, over a dozen firearms and more than $200,000 in cash, Anderson said. Charges will include drug and weapons trafficking and conspiracy.

“One of the methamphetamine seizures has a gross weight of more than 572 pounds,” Anderson said. “This 572-pound seizure represents the largest federal seizure ever of methamphetamine in the northern district of Northern California.” 

Most of the drugs come from the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, Anderson said.

The arrests and seizures spanned about a dozen cities from the Bay Area and south to Gilroy. The Gilroy arrests, which took place June 25, 2020 and Feb. 9, netted more than 80 pounds of methamphetamine, according to the FBI. It is currently unknown how many were arrested in the incidents.

“The charges we are announcing today provide insight into the entire ecosystem of narcotics trafficking in Northern California, from procurement to transportation to mid-level distribution all the way down to sales at the street level,” Anderson said.

Next at the podium was DEA Special Agent Danny Comeaux.

“Today is a good day for narcotics law enforcement in the Bay Area,” he said. “We successfully put a hurting to the Sinaloa Cartel.”

The 1,100 pounds of methamphetamine is equal to 80 million doses, Comeaux said, which translates to about 11 doses for every citizen of the Bay Area.

“Unfortunately, with all of these drugs comes violence,” he said. “Violence, guns, drugs—it hurts good citizens in the area.”

Anderson further added: “The lawlessness that is described in these charging documents is a profound threat to the healthy aspirations of whole communities of good people. Crime has not gone away while the country shelters in place.”

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.