Courts & Crime

Cartel bust detailed in Merced, Calif.

Details about a major Central Valley law enforcement operation targeting La Familia Michoacana were unveiled Monday during a news conference at the Merced County district attorney's office.

Meanwhile, Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II said potential state cuts could affect the ability of local agents to conduct similar operations in the future.

La Familia is a violent Mexican drug cartel that has been linked to a rash of kidnappings, beheadings and drug crimes in Mexico in recent years. Last month, an investigation conducted by state and local task force agents into the cartel's Central Valley activities was concluded after series of raids in Merced, Madera, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

As a result, 24 cartel members and associates were arrested. The goal was "to keep one of Mexico's most violent drug cartels from gaining a foothold in the Central Valley," Morse said.

Other law enforcement officials present at the conference included Madera County District Attorney Michael R. Keitz and Merced Police Chief Norm Andrade, as well as several special agents.

In addition, 10 pounds of crystal methamphetamine, 14 pounds of methamphetamine in powdered form, 30 gallons of methamphetamine solution, 17 firearms including assault weapons, a meth conversion lab, two meth superlabs, four vehicles with sophisticated hidden compartments and about $111,000 were seized in raids conducted in recent weeks by agents from the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, working with agents from the Merced and Madera narcotics and gang task forces and the Merced-Mariposa High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force.

Two of the seized vehicles, along with meth, firearms and money, were on display during the conference.

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