Mexican drug cartel's impact felt in California's San Joaquin Valley

Modesto BeeOctober 10, 2011 

Recent large-scale marijuana busts in Ceres have raised questions about whether Mexican drug cartels are active in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The answer: yes, very active.

An agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed late last week that one cartel in particular has a major presence in the region.

"There is a huge presence of La Familia Michoacána, and they are actively involved in transporting large amounts of marijuana," said the agent, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

The agent said the number of arrests associated with the cartel has doubled in the past year. During the past two weeks, the ICE agent has handled 10 cases in Stanislaus County tracing back to La Familia Michoacána. The cases range from marijuana production to human trafficking, he said.

The cartel operates primarily in the state of Michoacán, in western Mexico. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that La Familia Michoacána operates in 60 percent of the Mexican state's municipalities.

The cartel originated in the 1980s and at the time was primarily a marijuana production and distribution organization, according to the DEA.

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