Robert J. Lopez and Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times, August 19, 2011
Sixty reputed members of an Iraqi drug-trafficking organization in El Cajon have been arrested and authorities seized more than $630,000 in cash, 3,500 pounds of marijuana, dozens of high-powered firearms and several explosive devices, law enforcement officials said Thursday.
The organization was run out of a social club and has suspected links to the ruthless Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico and an Iraqi organized crime syndicate in Detroit, according to law enforcement officials.
The social club, located on East Main Street, has been a “hub of criminal activity conducted by Iraqi organized crime,” El Cajon police Chief Pat Sprecco said.
Over the years, thousands of Chaldean Christians fled Iraq and arrived in the United States to start new lives in cities such as Detroit and El Cajon, where about one-quarter of the roughly 96,000 residents have Iraqi ancestry.
The undercover operation announced Thursday found connections between the club and members of a suspected Iraqi Chaldean crime organization in Detroit, according to officials with the Police Department and the San Diego branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
In April, an undercover agent was shown a grenade and told that other grenades were available for sale from a Mexican military source, Sprecco said.
Four improvised explosive devices were seized by authorities during the investigation. Police said the 34 confiscated firearms included semiautomatic assault rifles and several fully automatic weapons.