Nine men have been arrested in connection with a nearly $1 million drug bust in downtown Phoenix.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said its detectives conducted an operation Monday and Tuesday to take down a domestic drug-trafficking organization that was operating out of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
In October, MCSO began investigating a group known as “Just Grindin.” The group advertised illegal drugs and distributed its products in Maricopa County. They also shipped them to other U.S. states and foreign countries.
Detectives working under the Maricopa County Drug Suppression Task Force conducted hundreds of hours of physical surveillance and used investigative techniques to help crack this case, a release states.
Investigators determined the members of this group would head to Los Angeles each weekend to gather marijuana, narcotic cartridges (commonly used in E-cigarettes) and promethazine, and then transport them back in a vehicle to an apartment in downtown Phoenix.
Once that vehicle arrived, the drugs would be unloaded and picked up by other local distributors who would arrive at the location within the next few hours, MCSO stated.
During this week’s operation, MCSO served six residential search warrants, impounded six vehicles, and booked six suspects into jail.
Financial crimes investigators also served a seizure warrant on five bank accounts and one person-to-person money service account.
Authorities seized materials including 95 pounds of high-grade marijuana worth about $230,000, 190 pounds of narcotic cannabis worth about $500,000, vape cartridges, THCA, slabs, oils, two handguns, two rifles (one which was stolen), and about $50,000 in cash.
The suspects with mugshots available are Oscar Bejar, 26; Daniel Moreno, 21; Francisco Vergara Salgado, 20; and Andres Gerardo Cardona, 20.
Records released Thursday morning state Mr. Bejar is the leader of the group and maintained an Instagram account that advertised the drugs and other items.
“In December, Bejar and an associate, Francisco Salgado were both observed attempting to ship multiple boxes through the US Postal Service,” a probable cause statement reads. “Those packages were intercepted and opened pursuant to a search warrant. Those boxes were found to contain over 2 pounds of marijuana and about 7 grams of narcotics.”
MCSO states Mr. Bejar was known to keep a list of vendors selling his products. His associates also maintained Instagram accounts to promote drug sales, records state.
The Daily News-Sun searched for the accounts listed in records and may have found one that references Proposition 203, which is the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act that was passed in 2010.
Records state Mr. Bejar would regularly fly out to California on a Thursday or Friday while someone else would drive there. Once in California, they would pick up strains of marijuana. Mr. Bejar would then fly back on a Monday and head home where the same vehicle would park in his garage.
Multiple duffel bags and boxes of products were then unloaded and taken into the apartment, records state.
When MCSO conducted a search of his apartment on Monday, Mr. Bejar and others were reportedly in the process of unloading a vehicle. MCSO arrested the individuals, with Mr. Bejar denying selling drugs. He stated all his money came from his self-owned clothing company.
A judge set Mr. Bejar’s bond at $100,000 cash-only. The other three booked into jail had their bonds set at $25,000 cash-only.
All four will appear in court April 9 and 12.
The other suspects are Daniel Gonzalez Savala, 21; Marco Guerrero, 25; Steven Villalobos, 34; Andres Rojas Monge, 21; and Reymundo Herrera, 23.
All nine face a variety of charges related to felony drug distribution crimes.